Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Look, Dad, Jesus is God!

Regularly, my children remind me that Jesus is God.

I ask them, "Who came to die to take away our sins?" And one of them will say, "God." And frequently, I find myself clarifying their answer, giving it an emendation with something like, "right, Jesus." But very quickly I usually get the counter clarification that "Jesus is God, Dad." And they're really very insistent about this. Some of this goes back to one of the first theological conversations I had with my son when I think he was about two years old. We had a brief Arian controversy break out at the dinner table regarding the divinity of Christ, but in the end, orthodoxy won out and my son embraced the Nicene formula.

But it's still striking. Yes, Jesus is God, but my instinct is to clarify that Jesus is a particular way that God has revealed Himself, that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. I tend to want to nuance their answers a bit. But they insist: Jesus is God, Dad.

And I'm beginning to think that sometimes my son intentionally answers my questions this way. I think sometimes he deliberately answers my question which obviously begs for the response "Jesus" with the answer "God." e.g. Whose birthday is on Christmas, son? "God's." I haven't called him on it yet, but I'm deeply suspicious. Not that this causes me any deep trouble or concern, mind you. But this is the sort of pondering that us fathers get to do. What does it all mean?

I think some of it is a fascination with the idea of the Trinity. It's a reoccurring question especially when I read/say things about Jesus loving God or praying to God or obeying God. The kids apparently have little radars that go off to catch this oddity: "But Jesus is God!" they exclaim and laugh. This is absurd their laughing eyes seem to say. And we review the Trinity, we talk through the story of Christ's baptism, the transfiguration, the crucifixion, Pentecost, etc. And it's all good. They all agree that it must all be true, but they never really stop smiling about how funny it is. It never seems to get old, and we cover the same material again and again, and it's still funny. And they shake their heads at me smiling and laughing like it's one of the best jokes they've ever heard.

But I wonder if some of it is also just pure and simple excitement and wonder in the fact of Christmas, the surprise of the Incarnation. It's so easy to say that Jesus is God in a perfunctory way as if that's normal, as if that's just to be expected. Of course he's God, I almost feel myself saying sometimes as my daughter flashes her wide, brown eyes at me, reminding me. Don't forget the surprise, Dad.

And that's just it, God as man continues to be a present, a surprise, all wrapped and waiting to be opened. And we do open it, and Jesus reveals the fullness of God to us. But almost as quickly as we unwrap the Gift, there He is in the gospels teaching and healing and dying and rising again, all wrapped up, ready to be opened again. And again, and again, and again.

And then it doesn't seem quite so ridiculous for my children to remind me over and over and over. I think children frequently understand gifts a lot better than grown ups. They can spot a present all the way across the room. And every time I ask about Him, they want to rip off the paper and be surprised again. It's God! Look, Dad, Jesus is God!


Uncle Bill said...

"It's a reoccurring question especially when I read/say things about Jesus loving God or praying to God or obeying God. The kids apparently have little radars that go off to catch this oddity: 'But Jesus is God!' they exclaim and laugh." It may not be as totally innocent as you might think. They could be picking up on the "egalitarian" culture that is all around them which might be causing some "cognitive dissonance" when you talk about things like Jesus obeying God, praying to him, or loving him.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

It is perhaps also saying that if we want to clarify or qualify "God died", "God died" is probably better than "Jesus died." Though, of course, both are equally true.

Reuben Huffman said...

I am with you all the way on this.

I nearly laughed out loud, reading this toddler-and-father discussion about the Trinity. Same thing at our house. I love it! Seems each of our 5 children have went through times (and starting remarkably young!) of these Trinity controversies.

I'm glad to see others struggling to explain, yet enjoying the struggle; what would we rather be wrestling over together with our little ones!?

God is good, and may your children and mine come to know Him in all his 3-personed splendor.