What Face of God Do You Need to See Today?

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

I stumbled upon this quote again just the other day. I loved it the first time I read I but over the years I had forgotten it. Sofia Cavalletti, the founder of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, is one of my favorite teachers when it comes to considering how we talk to children about God. Sofia begins with the assumption that each child has a relationship with God that began not in the Sunday school classroom or the sanctuary but in the womb. Form the moment of creation the child and God were one. Gorgeous.

What then is our job as parents, grandparents, Godparents, church teachers, youth ministers, and older Christians walking the way of the cross with a younger child of God? What do we teach or share with them? Facts about the history of the church? Sure. Those can be interesting to some of our teenage history buffs. Maybe we need to have them memorize the church catechism as we used to do? That cannot hurt and it offers interesting conversation for the skeptical thirteen-year-old who is beginning to wonder why we do what we do and say what we say each Sunday. Or perhaps reciting Bible chapter and verses would be useful. There are even songs that reference various Bible stories. Maybe they could hum those songs in their heads as they play. All of these idea are fine and certainly teach a child something about God.

However, these ideas do not really get to the heart of Sofia's question in the end. Her questions begs us to go deeper than fact finding and memorization. First, in her question she reminds of the incarnation. "What face of God..." is asked of us. The idea of God having a face reminds us that God is not invisible to us. God can be seen. This face of God can be as mysterious and awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean. This face can take our breath away just like a beautiful cello concerto. God's face can be as gentle as the smile of an elderly widow or as tender as a June breeze. God's face is seen in the tears of those forgotten or lost and in the laughter of a new born giggling for the first time. Finally, when we are brave enough God's face is not invisible at all. God's face is among us and within us.

Secondly, Sofia asks "...is the child telling us he or she needs to see?" The word needs strikes me. It reminds me that we all have a longing for God deep within us. We do not only want to see God, we need to see God. We need to see the wildly mysterious powerful face of God because it grounds us in our humanity. Seeing the great face of God gives us humility and reminds us that we are not the all-powerful one. We need to see the face of God right next to us in creation, in other people, and in ourselves because without doing so we forget who we are and who others are around us. We forget about love. We need to see love because love is the one thing that frees us from separation, loneliness, fear, or anger. We do desperately need to see the face of God so that we might live.

"What face of God is the child telling us he or she needs to see?" How do we answer this with more than facts about God? First, we listen to the child God has given us. This child could be five, 15, 27, or older. Whoever God has given you to love at this point in your life, listen to them. Listen to the questions they are asking with their words and the ones they are asking with their actions or lack thereof. Second, keep in mind they need to see this face, either grand and awe-inspiring or small and very near. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, answer with your heart. If revealing the face of God is centered in giving and receiving love you are free from worrying about answering "correctly" or getting it "right." When someone is asking to see the face of God, they are asking for love. This Love reminds us all that we are valued, gives us courage, fills us with hope and leaves us free.

What face of God do you need to see today?