Mareto struggles with the intangible aspects of life. He loves things like letters and numbers and trains and blocks — things that remain constant, things that he can see and touch and hold in his hands. Abstract truths are a little tougher. It can be difficult for Mareto to understand that the tree is bigger than the bridge in one image but not another. Why isn’t the same label applied to the tree all the time? Mareto likes things ordered and consistent… and tangible.
Last year I went to visit Mareto at school and to eat lunch in the cafeteria with him. I like to check on him during his day to see how he’s interacting with his peers, to see if he’s smiling and happy, and mostly just to get a few minutes of hugs and giggles because I miss him. When lunch ended that day, the class lined up and I took Mareto’s hand. We walked through the halls back to his classroom, swinging our interlocked hands along the way.
We were rounding the corner when Mareto tilted his head toward my face and casually mentioned, as if we’d been talking about it all day, “Jesus is God.” It was a statement, not a question. He said it in the same way one might say, “Timmy’s shirt is red.” In a normal tone and volume — just sharing a true thing.
Mareto wasn’t being forceful or making a bold declaration. It was a statement of faith. My breath caught in my throat as I stared down at the little boy I thought couldn’t possibly understand the deity of Christ. I think I managed to say something along the lines of, “Yes, he is, sweetie.” Then we hugged and kissed at the door of his classroom, and off he ran to finish his day.
I sat in the parking lot thinking about that simple but profound moment for a while. How did Mareto know that? Yes, we are a Christian family. We pray together before meals and over the children at bedtime each night. We sing songs and love others and go to church and serve together as a family. John and I share our faith with Mareto and Arsema because it’s who we are and how we do life.
But faith is abstract. Even adults struggle to grasp the truths behind the practices. My children are young, and we give them information in bite-size pieces.
So I sat in that parking lot and wondered what it was that had gotten through to Mareto. Was it the time in children’s church or the bedtime prayers? How did he come to understand something he couldn’t see or touch or hold in his hands?
But as I sat there thinking through it, I realized how wrong it was of me to assume that Jesus and God and Heaven were beyond his grasp. After all, weren’t they beyond mine? How arrogant of me to assume that my son couldn’t possibly grasp something like faith, but that I certainly understood the trinity and the God who is “I am” and always has been. (Let your brain try to figure out infinity for a bit and see how it feels.)
The truth is, I don’t get it. A friend of mine once described our view of God and spiritual things as looking through a knothole in a fence to see the amusement park behind it. If you have a wooden fence in your backyard, go give it a try. You might see a small picture of what lies behind that fence with your face pressed against the wood and one eye squinted shut. But what actually lies behind is a whole world that is out of your view. To say that you could draw a whole map of the park, that you know everything there is to know about it based on your peek through the hole, would be incredibly arrogant and just plain untrue.
Even if we claim to have all the answers, the truth is we don’t. We actually can’t wrap our minds around a God bigger than our wildest imagination, and any attempt to do so paints a thumbnail image of the real thing.
We tend to put things in a box so we can understand them better. Unknowingly, I have put Mareto in a box. I’ve uttered the words “He doesn’t understand” more times than I can count. I’ve done it when we’re trying to explain something at home or when we’re at the playground or in a restaurant or doing a worksheet. Right in front of him I look up to John or Arsema or my parents and say, “He doesn’t understand.” I hate that I’ve done that.
Do you know why I assume Mareto doesn’t understand things? Because he can’t put it into words. He struggles to explain why he’s upset or what he wants the toy to do or what game his friends are playing. He smiles and stares, and I assume he doesn’t understand because he doesn’t have the words to verbalize whatever it is that we’re doing.
Last week Mareto was frustrated and crying at the kitchen table. I can’t remember what the issue was, but I had one arm around him while John attempted to explain it to Mareto. He continued to cry, and I looked up to John, saying, “He just doesn’t understand.” For the first time ever we got a surprising response from Mareto.
“I do understand!” he wailed.
My heart broke, because I knew in that moment that I had underestimated my son. I had foolishly assumed that a lack of speech meant a lack of understanding. I was so very wrong. It happened a few more times that week as I caught myself saying Mareto didn’t understand something. I’m working on erasing that phrase from my vocabulary.
Mareto’s lack of words to describe faith, God, and Heaven doesn’t mean he has no understanding. After all,
How great is God — beyond our understanding! — Job 36:26 NIV
So, why do we overcomplicate faith and claim to know things we don’t? Why is it so hard for us to sit in the simplicity of faith?
Excerpted with permission from It’s Okay About It by Lauren Casper, copyright Lauren Casper.
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We can’t possibly understand all that Jesus is and what Heaven will be like. Although we’re created in the image of God, we’re not Him! Today, let’s sit in the simplicity of faith. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily