This post is a part of my “Board Book Beauty – Savoring the small as I read to my toddler” series. To see all of the posts in the series, go here.
As the day draws to a close, Jonathan offers to read to Katie as a part of her bedtime routine. She brings him The Jesus Storybook Bible.
“Read story about scary guy, Daddy.”
He’s unsure which one she means. I interpret for him and he turns to the right page as she climbs into his lap. She nestles in the crook of his arm as he reads. All is idyllic, calm, until he reaches the midpoint of the story.
“Goliath walked towards David. THUD. THUD. THUD.”
He stomps his feet on the floor for emphasis, and suddenly, Katie has her hands over her ears. Tears fill her eyes.
“No, no, no, Daddy!” she says. “No read about scary guy.”
Jonathan shoots me a puzzled look. We’ve read this story to her plenty of times without incident, and her reaction surprises both of us.
“Katie-bug, what’s the trouble?” he asks, setting the book to one side and gently pulling her hands from her ears. “Can you tell us what’s wrong?”
“No like scary guy.”
“I know this guy is scary,” Jonathan says, “but I think we should finish the story. This story is all about how God loves his people and wants to protect and rescue them from scary guys.”
He looks over at me, unsure. “Is that reasonable theology?”
I know exactly what he’s asking; I have the same questions myself. How does one begin to broach theodicy with a toddler, to talk about the sovereignty and protection of God when the world is full of so much pain? How do we explain things to our girl in a language she can understand? What about all the times he doesn’t protect, doesn’t rescue?
Still, this is truth, and truth I cling to (Lord, help my unbelief): God loves. He does. And he doesn’t want to see his people suffer.
I shrug my shoulders, then nod. “For a two-year-old? Sure.”
He continues with the story, putting special emphasis on the end: “God had saved his people. David was a hero! Many years later, God would send his people another young Hero to fight for them. And to save them. But this Hero would fight the greatest battle the world has ever known.”
He closes the book, but she still has a concerned look on her face.
“Remember how we can sing when we’re scared, sweetheart?” I say. “Would you like to do that?”
She nods and the three of us sing “Jesus Loves Me.” By the end, she is calm. She scampers off to her room to find her pajamas. Jonathan follows. I lean back on the couch, longing for the simple faith and uncomplicated trust of a child.
I know that complexities will come, that someday, she’ll ask hard questions about this ancient faith we practice, and I hope we rise to the task. I hope we help her to push into the mystery, to not be afraid to examine the world, to ask whether it lines up with what she’s been taught. I hope we can show her how to add depth and nuance to this faith of hers as she grows, but how do I do this well? How do I teach her to find the balance, to hold fast to both faith and uncertainty, when I have so many questions myself? What will I say to her when her questions become harder, when it takes more than singing a chorus to scare away the dark?
I do not know, and the thought of such responsibility is sobering. Terrifying, even.
But all of that lies somewhere in the future, in some distant time when she is older. For now, she is two. For now, God loves.
And that is theology enough.
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