When God Took a Journey in a Cave

We were walking to the car one night when Sally commented on the stars.

“Do you what makes them stay up there?” I asked her.

“God put them there!” Sally exclaimed.

“Who is God?” This was the first time I’d heard her use the term.

“God is Jesus,” she replied.

“But what is God?”

“Mom!” Sally exclaimed. “God is just his name! He has two names, God and Jesus!”

“Well, then how did he put the stars in the sky?”

“I will tell you the story,” Sally responded with a smile, and her voice lowered and took on a story telling cadence. Sally’s story involved a journey across a lake and through a dark cave. It involved being lost, being stalked by scary beings, and, ultimately, the placement of the stars. And it was very clearly myth—created as myth, told as myth, and gloried in as myth.

My husband Sean and I are not religious, and by that I mean that we do not believe in either God or the supernatural. Sally is in preschool, and her current familiarity with the stories of Christianity is centered mainly on the nativity story that she is exposed to at Christmas and, well, the movie Prince of Egypt. She insists that Jesus and Moses are the same person, because, duh, look at pictures, it’s obvious.

Sally also sees a crucifix at Sean’s parents’ church when we visit, and she knows that’s meant to be Jesus. One of her aunts read her a children’s book about the crucifixion and resurrection last Easter, and she processed that story by talking about how Jesus’ mother must have been so sad that he was dead, but that was okay because he came back alive again, and by comparing Jesus to the Doctor from Doctor Who, because both are capable of dying and coming alive again (also, the Roman soldiers are apparently totally cybermen).

Sally’s life is replete with stories. Princesses and superheroes dance across her daydreams. Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Richard Scary, Dr. Seuss—these are the stuff of her daily life. Stories are one way humans commentate, one way we share our emotions, hopes, fears, and dreams. It’s not surprising that Sally would take up this art of storytelling, or that she should do so by weaving varying threads together.

When we returned home that evening I told Sean what Sally had said about the stars. His response? “What a great story, Sally! Now would you like to know how the stars actually stay up there?” Sally nodded, and they were off to find our stack of science books and to look up physics illustrations and astronomy pictures online.

As for me, I’m pretty certain I haven’t seen the end of Sally’s myth-making capabilities. And I’m going to feed them. I just got back from the library with Sally and Bobby, armload of stories in tow—Norse, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and Greek mythology.

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