“No, sweetie, I’m sure that she doesn’t want your shoe.”
The toddler sitting behind me looks unimpressed at her mother, and I am trying not to giggle. For years and years, I have listened to the same spiel about coming to God like little children. I can almost see the Gerber baby picture as they start talking about beautiful children who are sweet and precious. They talk about the absolute innocence of children. The childlike awe. The childlike grace.
And once again I feel absolute certainty that most theologians have never spent very much time around children.
But while I don’t agree with the interpretation most of them have, I am grateful for that thought.
I am grateful for the idea of God wanting me to come to him as a little child.
I am grateful for the idea of having a God that could love me as my brain and body are throwing a toddler-level tantrum and launching me into another panic attack.
I am grateful for the idea of a God who could love me as I am stamping my foot and arguing that I don’t want to do something.
I am grateful for the idea of a God who puts up with me asking questions that I seem to be short on answers for.
I am grateful for the idea of a God who puts up with me showing up, apathetic and looking like I want to take a nap.
I am grateful for the idea of a God who deals with me sobbing, crying, even though I don’t know why I am crying or upset.
I am grateful for the idea of a God who could help me in the struggle to get up in the morning and try to find breakfast in the refrigerator.
Yes, I should come to God like a little child, arguing and kicking and screaming the whole way.
I should come to God like the little girl who had been sitting behind me, and then moved to fighting her mother’s attempts to reel her back in as the little girl began greeting everyone in the church, now completely barefoot.
Yes, we should come to God like little children.
And if that means coming like the happy barefoot toddler I saw at Mass, or a preschooler learning how to play tee-ball, or the child who is having a meltdown in the middle of a store, then that is how we come. I might love the image I have of the Gerber baby, of Anne Geddes’s baby photography, but I don’t love my cousin’s daughter less because she isn’t that picture perfect baby or because she needs to cuddle her stuffed bunny with sour-milk-smelling ears to sleep. I love the image, but it isn’t a very realistic one.
I want to believe in a God who is as open and accepting and willing to accept our attempts and failures just as much as he would accept the little girl who did not want to wear shoes throughout Mass.
But the Gerber baby is still kind of cute.