"Mommy, how can God be in me? And you? And all the people? There are so many people and only one of Him! And He is so big and we are so little. How does He fit?"
This is one of the super awesome questions asked by my 5-year-old son. It was so sweet and cute, but it shows a really important quality of young children's thinking. All of their understanding is concrete, focused on what they can see and feel with their senses. An important developmental milestone is bridging that gap from concrete understanding to understanding of abstract concepts. You know, like maybe a person that sees you, even when you can't see them; and exists outside the physical universe, but can interact with the physical universe, unbound by the laws of nature. And honestly, many of us as adults still have trouble with these abstract concepts at times. So how do we explain the idea of a God that we can't see or touch to children who are still functioning in the realm of concrete principles? These are the thoughts that flashed through my brain, as I sat with my mouth hanging open like a fish, trying to think of how to answer my son.
"So if spiritual things work like fire and love, the more you share them, the bigger they grow."
I didn't want to blow off his question; I could tell he was really struggling to understand. What if this was a key moment in the forming of his relationship with God? No pressure, right? I struggled to find any words that would be at all helpful. I came up with nothing. I prayed and asked that God would give me the words to build up my son's faith and give him a meaningful answer that would not leave him feeling disrespected or confused. So here is what I said:
"We are physical. We are made of stuff that we can touch and feel. Physical things are anything made of stuff: people, animals, mud, houses, trees, and pie. If we have a pie, and everyone in our family wants a piece, we would have to do what? Cut it in pieces, one for each person. But what if we also had friends over for dinner? Would everyone be able to still have some? Well, yes, but everyone's piece would be smaller. What if we had all our friends over to share that one pie? What would happen to your piece? It would be teeeeeny tiny! That's how it is with everything that is physical, in order to share more, you have to have less. Is that how God is? Do we have to split Him up between us like a pie?
"God is not physical! He is spiritual. Spiritual things don't work like physical things. So how can we know how spiritual things work? Well, in the Bible, God actually says he is love. So how does love work? Here's one example: Before we had you, Mommy and Daddy loved each other, and we were a family. But then when we had you, did we have to divide our love like a pie to make some for you? No! Our love grew the more we shared it. And when our family grows more, or we make more friends, or get more pets, don't we love them all so so much?
"In the Bible, God also compares His Spirit to fire. How does fire work? Let's light a candle. What happens if I want to light another candle with this first one? Will each flame be half as big? If we light a candle for each of our friends and family will we all have a teeny tiny flame? Nope! The fire will grow as it spreads, and each candle will have as much fire as it can use. So if spiritual things work like fire and love, the more you share them, the bigger they grow. Remember the story about Jesus sharing the fishes and loaves of bread with 5,000 people? He was working through the Holy Spirit, not through physical laws. So he was able to multiply the food, not just divide it.
"So then, if God is spiritual, and not physical, we don't have to be confused by how He can fill all of us up. Or by how he can fit in us. We can remember that the ways that stuff works is different than the way that God works. And hopefully, we can build our trust that there is always enough God to go around."