The theology of little boys.
Gus is 4. He’s a funny kid, full of questions and ideas. He is fervently in love with his little brother, enjoys harassing his sister, he’s wildly creative and a water bug. He’s my bathroom cleaning partner and snuggle buddy. He is almost always bursting with energy and never ever wants to be alone.
He was my first baby and because of this Gus is continuing to teach me now to be a mom, but, more than that, he’s teaching me about little boys.
I grew up in a very female house. I was one of 4 girls and although my brother did come along eventually the house was already so girly at that point that he didn’t stand a chance to teach me anything.
But then we got Gus. At 10 months he was pretending his carrot sticks were “brumm brumms”. Our living room has become his jungle gym and battlefield and if anything can be re-imagined into a gun or a sword, it is.
Lately he’s been talking a lot about God. We pray together at night and before meals. We go to mass, read books about God and the saints and have crucifixes in nearly every room. So, he knows about God–but, the things he asks about seem, to him, more pressing.
“Mom, who’s stronger, God or a lion?”
“Mom, could God break down this whole house?”
“Mom, is God faster than a cheetah?”
“Mom, if there was a whole army of bad guy robots with bullet guns could God beat them? All by Himself?”
And each time I tell him that yes, God is bigger and stronger and faster and better than anything on this Earth because God made everything on and in this Earth, Gus’s face stretches wide with a smile.
He’ll release a bit of a victory laugh and declare, “God is awesome!” And then quickly add, “God’s on my team and we’re gonna beat everybody!”
So, it’s not a perfect theology, but it’s the theology of a little boy. And it’s a beautiful theology. Through his questions and our conversations while we dig in the sandbox or put away dishes I’ve been reminded of one incredible thing: God is Awesome.
So Awesome. It’s sort of an Old Testament awareness that I’d lost track of. For awhile now my spirituality has focused on the Passion–all of the suffering Christ endured for the redemption of sinners like me. And this focus on suffering is important, but talking to Gus I am reminded that God parted a sea and knocked down walls and dethroned kings.
God is the absolute definition of awesome. I knew all of these things about God, but with Gus, we live amid the awesomeness of God.
Last Lent I made a set of paper figures of the passion characters for Gus to play with. We had fun setting up the scenes, moving the characters, going through their conversations and reactions and actions. He played along, but he was most interested in the Roman Centurion–because he had a sword. And, frankly, he was disappointed in the Christ character, nailed to the cross and dying.
I once again explained the story, the sacrifice, the agony, the gift of it all for us. Gus took it in, but I could tell he wasn’t pleased. In fact, he was distressed.
Finally he said, “So this guy (the centurion) was stronger than God?”
I suddenly saw it as he saw it. In this scene God had lost. He was weak and wreaked. This was not the God Gus thought about all day, fought pretend battles with, prayed to at night. To him, this contradicted everything he had come to know about the awesomeness of God.
“Buddy,” I started, “Jesus did die on the cross. The Roman soldiers killed him but then Jesus rose from the dead, remember? So, even though they killed him, He won! Remember?”
He thought about it. “He won? He beat this guy? Even though Jesus doesn’t have a sword he’s the strongest?”
“Yes, Gus, Jesus won. He was stronger than the solider. He is even stronger than death. They tried to kill Him, but he rose from the dead and won for us!”
Whoa. That made sense to him.
He picked up the Roman Centurion and brought him eye level. “Yeah,” he yelled in his face, “you’re a loser cause Jesus is stronger even then death!” And with that he jumped from the table and sprinted into the living room to continue the on-going battle he and Jesus were fighting in there.
As the weeks pass I can see his awareness of God growing. Yesterday he told me, “You know what’s better than Gold, mom? God. He’s better.” At night he’s started to pray for those that have no hope and peace, that God can give it to them.
Each time he reveals another element of God to me–that God is a treasure, a comforter, a provider–my little heart aches with joy. The wisdom and clarity of children is such a gift, especially when truth can be so clouded in our adult world.
But God is still Gus’s greatest ally, and his champion. And, I am working on thinking of God in the same way. Working on embracing the beautiful, simple and very honest theology of little boys.