Neil, my son, had not long started school, which makes him about five or six. One day he came home, after having had a Religious Instruction lesson and started to ask questions.
“Dad”, he said “I don’t understand about God”
“Well son, what don’t you understand”, I replied with a little trepidation.
“Who is He? Where does He live? Is He a good man? What does He do? Can I meet Him?” the questions flowed quickly.
I thought for a few moments stroking my chin in what I hoped was a professor-like manner.
Then responded …………………..
“God is a very good man and if you’re a good boy He will look after you”
“Like Father Christmas?”, asked Neil.
“Err ………………. sort of,” I said “but He doesn’t appear just at Christmas. He’s there all the time”
I felt I was getting out of my depth.
“If I go to church will I see Him”, was the next question.
“No, He doesn’t live in churches, they’re just special places where you go to talk to him”. I was rather pleased with myself for this answer.
“But, He sounds such a nice man that I’d like to meet Him”
My smugness disappeared.
Mild panic replaced it.
“I’m afraid you can’t. It isn’t like that”, was the lame response.
“But I saw Father Christmas. I met him in that big shop”
He wasn’t letting go; like a dog with a bone.
I was now desperate to close the conversation. I was way out of my depth.
“Yes, but God is more special than Father Christmas. He’s everywhere, all around us and He watches over us. One day, when you’re older, you may find him.” I finished lamely.
At that point Jen called from the kitchen that dinner was ready and that we should wash our hands.
I sighed with relief.
A few days later Neil was playing in the garden with a couple of friends.
All the kids loved our garden. It was wild and overgrown; they could build camps at the bottom of it and be out of sight of the house (or so they thought).
Neil and his friends were digging a hole.
Suddenly he dashed into the kitchen holding something in his hand.
“Dad, Dad, I’ve found God! He was in the garden!”
He showed me what he’d dug up. It was an old misshapen flower bulb with straggly roots sprouting that could, at least to a child, resemble hair. It did look a little like a shrunken head.
Jen looked at me.
It was a look that said “You’re on your with this one, pal”
My mind raced
“No, son, that isn’t God. He doesn’t live in our garden”
Neil’s face fell. Then he looked puzzled. With hands on hips he said,
“But Dad, you told me He was everywhere. Why can’t he be in our garden?”
As she rushed past me with her shoulders shaking with laughter, Jen muttered, “Game, set and match to the five year old, I think”