No, in fact, I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader. I’m not even smarter than a third grader.
For more than half my life, one question nagged me: Is there a God?
But at age eight, my daughter has affirmed in big bold, green letters the answer to the question that baffled me into adulthood: yes, oh yes, there is a God, and He loves me so.
Her Adventure Bible — the one she’s highlighted in green — fell open to the back cover. I read the words, with blurred eyes. And the tears sting now as I sit here with her Bible open beside me.
“Think about it,” she scratched out in oversized green letters. “How would the world be here then? Jesus Loves You.”
Somewhere in the night, when mama wasn’t watching, she set the greasy green pencil to paper, affirming her beliefs … and maybe just to remind me of mine?
Under the quilt at night, she and I talk a lot about the hard questions of faith. She gives voice to the questions that I never had the courage to ask:
How do we know that Jesus is real?
How can we believe that Ancient Words are true words?
If God is real, why would he let bad things happen?
If there’s people on an island who never, ever heard about Jesus, will they still get to go to Heaven?
The questions are never easy, but the way we figure, it’s better to ask them together than to ask them alone … or not to ask them at all.
She knows I grew up with hard questions that nagged silently, eroded at my mustard-seed faith, left me in darkness at age 9 and 18 and 25 and 30. She knows that, back then, I didn’t really believe what I learned in Sunday School. She knows that when I was her age, I had thrown Jesus Christ and Santa Claus into the same category.
She knew that I used to be scared to die.
She also knows that it was right in the middle of my questions where I found the Lord.
When my skin first stretched wide with growing new life, I prayed God would grant this child the faith He was giving me. And that if the child had doubts, they they would lead only to the One who held answers. That when it all fell apart, the child would find Peace in the pieces.
I asked her last night, under the covers, when did she write the words in green?
She said she’d written them a year ago, maybe more.
I asked her, Why?
“I don’t know,” she paused. “I guess it’s because you let me write in my Bible, and we talk a lot about why people don’t believe in Jesus. And this really made sense.”
“Yes, Lydia, it really does make sense,” I answered.
We stared into the darkness awhile, arms wrapped around each other. She interrupted the silence.
“Mom?” she asked. “When did you start telling me about Jesus?”
“Ever since you started growing in my tummy — even before I knew if you were a girl or a boy,” I told her. “When do you remember me telling you about Jesus?”
She figured she was four, maybe three. “You told me He died on the cross for me. I used to draw pictures of the three crosses.”
And she said, she’d always draw the “wilting yellow flowers” at the base of Jesus’ cross, because the flowers were sad that Jesus died.
And, she told me, that because Jesus lives in her heart, she’s fairly sure He likes mini-donuts. So she wondered, could she have some at the fair, because The Jesus inside of her was hungry for them, too. And for Heaven’s sake, we wouldn’t Jesus to go hungry!
And we both laughed wild and holy, and I felt engulfed by the love of a living God who was real. Real enough to die on a cross, with yellow wilting flowers at His feet. Real enough to make the world … and mini-donuts. Real enough to love us in spite of our questions — and even right in the middle of them.
Yes, you. are. real. And yes you love me.
And if I ever, ever, EVER doubt it, lead me to the Bible of a child who is smart enough to keep a record of Your truth.