I’m spending this week with my niece who is almost two years old. To fulfill my calling as an auntie, I adhere to the belief that she is the smartest, sweetest, most perfect child ever. Her parents assure me otherwise, but I am standing my ground! We often refer to her as SHA, which are her initials. My interactions with her have given me a new branch of theology full of “ah!” moments, insights about God that the innocence of children best bring to light.
Having not seen her in a while, I wanted to “connect” with SHA and asked my sister what some of her favorite things were. I did not expect the following response: “SHA loves rocks, birds, and flowers.” I had been hoping for something less scientific, maybe eating ice cream or playing with dolls. Of those three, horticulture seemed more feasible than crash courses in ornithology or geology. A flower-savvy friend had sent me a number of photos of unusual flora and their names. On the way to dinner after my arrival, I sat next to SHA in the back seat and showed her pictures of the flowers. She’s at the age of wanting to repeat everything adults say, which made the illustrated botany lesson even more fun:
Me: This is a parrot tulip.
Me: (thinking to myself, “wow, she’s smart”) Here’s a pin cushion protea.
SHA: Ooooo…. proteeeeaaaaahhh
Me: (to self: that’s impressive) Here’s a hard one: Craspedia.
Me: Child, you are a genius.
Then I showed her a photo of a unique arrangement: a bouquet of flowers floating in a swimming pool. With no prompting from me, SHA pointed, smiled, and said, “Flowers in the wah-wah.”
Flowers in the water. Yes. Forget about technical terms. My niece had cut to the chase and stated the obvious.
As we grow in our relationships with God and study the Word, we need to expand our knowledge and vocabulary. We need to find the “craspedia” and “protea” details of the Bible. We need to learn different schools of theology and broaden the ways we talk about God. Spiritual growth calls for such intellectual growth, too.
At the same time, we should not become so caught up in the power of the human mind that we neglect the “flowers in the wah-wah”: the basic spiritual truth that God loves us unconditionally, the reassurance that we are saved by his grace, the gift of salvation made obvious in Jesus Christ. To grow spiritually and intellectually requires a balancing of the head and the heart.
The prophet Isaiah once said that “a little child shall lead us” (Isaiah 11:6). As a pastor, the most effective “theologians” who have led me over the years were, and still are, children. They remind us of the obvious. They also challenge us in our growth as we challenge them in theirs. Let us pay attention to the SHAs so that our theology will abound with “aha!” moments–from craspedia to flowers in the wah-wah.
all good things to each of you,
Pastor (and Auntie) Darian
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.