I recently spent the day with a couple of classes of Year 2 children running an RE day with the following title; ‘If I could ask God a question it would be….’ The day covered many different aspects around this theme and towards the end of the day the children were able to fire their questions at me.
What questions could I expect? Would I have an answer? Could I explain the doctrine of the Trinity if asked or unpack the Christological mystery in appropriate language?
Those who have worked with children will instantly realise that these are not the questions that are important to a six-year-old, nor was it about having the answer or even an answer. It was about allowing the questions to be voiced, acknowledged and considered. The rules were simple, they could ask anything about God but I might say I didn’t know. The value of these times is in bringing into the open deep thoughts and questions about God that often haven’t been formulated into a one sentence enquiry before. As this is done so their presuppositions about God were revealed. The children were very happy to accept that God existed and that He could be everywhere, all the time, all at once. This concept was hard to visualise but fine to be believed. The issues for these children were based around how they could visualise God and understand His beginning.
Who made God? was a popular question and What did he look like? Did he have golden hair? Where was he standing when he made the world? How old was he? These and other similar questions started to show what was important to these children. These are children whose thinking is still very literal and concrete. Fantasy and reality are all one and so their need to see God in ways that they had experience of and could relate to started to come to the surface. Seeing God in anthropomorphic terms – having two hands, two eyes, two ears etcetera helped them understand the nature of God and it was very apparent this was not an abstract idea of how they could characterise God but a literal way of thinking that God was like them. Once again it struck me how important it is to talk to children about Jesus and allow the stories of the Gospels to be told, as this is how children will see and be able to engage with God.
Six-year-olds are very egocentric. The world revolves around them and what they have experienced at home, school and the wider world is what they think is normal for everyone everywhere. The most striking question for me was voiced by a quieter child who was using their world view to imagine God.
Does God have a mummy?
The answer to this question doesn’t lie in considering the alpha and omega concepts of Revelation or in considering the inter-relationship of the Trinity personhood. The question is all about the importance of mummy to a six-year-old. The one who cares for them, protects them, provides all they need. The one who will comfort them when they are hurt and listen to them when they are afraid. So if this is their experience of mummy then who would do all of those things for God? It was beyond their ability to comprehend or accept that God didn’t have a mummy yet once again the powerful image of Jesus and his mother Mary were useful to these children to know God was OK and safe while still being able to be the creator and sustainer of the universe.
Maybe there was something I could learn from these young lives. Perhaps I should formulate my questions and speak them out to reveal how I see God.