I try to carry God into all I do including parenting. This does not translate into threats or punishment about God watching but into teaching about kindness and love.
One afternoon, we are sitting in the sunroom and I am thanking my 6-year-old son, E, and 3-year-old daughter, N, for helping out around the house not expecting a God conversation at all.
Me: “Thank you so much for helping to pick up your toys this morning. I think it’s something we as a family need to be working on and it’s a way that we show we are part of this family and we care about our home.”
In the midst of my kids smile at me through the disappointment of having to pick of their toys daily, one of our four cats jumps up, and I say to him: “You aren’t good at picking up your toys but you do give yourself a bath so I appreciate that, kitty.”
My son chimes in: “And he does give us love.”
I think of the 1 Corinthians 13, which has been seared into my brain by the many Christian weddings I’ve attended:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly,b but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (NRSV)
Me: “Giving each other love is probably the greatest thing we can do for one another so it’s pretty important our kitty does that with us and we do it with each other.”
E: “Is it more important than going to heaven?”
Me: “Yeah, I think loving one another is more important than going to heaven.”
I think of 1 John 4:7-21, part of which was read at our wedding.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (NRSV)
E: “Is loving each other more important than God?”
Me: “That’s hard to say. I don’t think love is more important than God because God is love. It’s a tough distinction to make, babe.”
E: “I love my kitties and my family tons and tons and tons so I must love them more than God loves me.”
Me: “Well, what is so amazing is that God loves us even more than we are able to love each other. Even the people we love so much.”
My son gets upset that he can’t love more than God. At 6, loving our family is big feeling.
Me: “Sweetie, you’re making an unfair comparison. God isn’t a person like you and me, but your love is so important and helps us understand God more.”
The conversation moves on to cars and princesses and dances and giggles as suddenly as it started on God. But for the rest of the day, as my heart swells with the love of my family, I remember the gift: I am glimpsing God’s love for us all. God is love and for all the differences between the finite and infinite, the secular and the divine, we have love in common.
About the writer: Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in Philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and Christian liberal by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog except when it’s serious about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity.