A few weeks ago, my youngest son woke me up on a Saturday morning with a thousand and two questions about our plans for the day. At age 6, his curiosity runs like Niagara Falls and I’m often the one going over the edge in a barrel.
The discussion zigzagged from our weekend to-do list to a menu of things he doesn’t quite understand. “Why can’t we get a turtle? Why can’t I use your bed as a trampoline? Does God sit in a really big chair?”
That last one caught me off guard.
I asked a few questions in return and engaged in a fascinating discussion about God, love and heaven with my kindergartner. When I asked what our Heavenly Father looks like, my son answered, “He’s really big. But not big like a giant. Just big like a man.”
I wondered what he thought Heavenly Father does all day. “He listens to our prayers,” he offered. When I pressed for more he said, “He tells the Holy Ghost where he should go.”
Evidently, the Spirit had been asked to join our discussion, because I suddenly had tears in my eyes.
Our discussion stuck with me all day and by the time I kissed him goodnight, I’d decided to gather a handful of other kindergarten-aged kids to ask what they know and feel about God. With the help of my wife, we invited 5- and 6-year-olds from different churches, backgrounds and family dynamics to participate in my project.
Just a few days later — and with their parents’ permission — I interviewed Ava, Dara, Jordan, Koleson, Mallory, Michael, Molly, Nathan and Sarah one at a time and on camera. The children were not prepped for the questions and didn’t know the topic of our discussion beforehand. Nor did they have the benefit of hearing the other interviews.
I may have walked in the room with few expectations, but I left with a deepened understanding of things divine.
With each child I posed the same question first, though sometimes with slightly different wording. “Can you tell me who God is?” They told me he is Jesus Christ’s father, the creator of the world and the father of everyone on Earth. A pretty good start, I thought.
When I asked what they thought God looks like, Dara answered confidently with a hint of “duh” in her voice, “Like a man.” Another girl, Mallory, closed her eyes tight and after a long time opened them to say, “I think I know now. I think he has a beard and he has, um, a scarf.”
I can believe that. Can’t you?
Later, when I wondered where God lives, each answered without hesitation, “Heaven.” A few accompanied their answer with an emphatic finger pointed to the sky. Not surprisingly, all had some idea of what heaven looks like, and Nathan’s answer was the most descriptive. “It has golden roads and houses and stuff. And a big city.”
Some of the children were asked if their Father in heaven has other names. Molly answered thoughtfully, “I think some people call him ‘The King of the World.’” Another said, “Lord and Master.”
“Amen,” I almost whispered.
Michael was quizzed on who else lives with God. “Other, like, dead people live up there with God if they be good.” I asked if he wanted to live with him someday and he said yes, but not by himself. “With my whole family,” he smiled.
I smiled, too.
Did the children think that God would know their names? All answered yes. And why? “Because he knows everything,” Ava said, without a hint of doubt. Asked the same question, Sarah answered almost before I’d finished speaking, “Cause he knows everybody’s name.”
I also asked if they thought God has a job in heaven. One said he helps us learn, one said he heals people and Jordan said so sweetly, “Like he makes me be happy and not be like sad. He makes me, he makes me really fun."
I bet you make him happy too, Jordan.
Maybe the most endearing and enduring lesson of my interview was how every child — no matter their faith, their background or shy personality — answered with confidence to my final chain of questions: "Do you think that God loves you?"
Yes, yes, yes, they all said.
Koleson, my favorite of the kindergartners with a striking resemblance to his beautiful mother, was asked why he thinks God loves him: “Because he knows us.”
Indeed, to know these kids is to love them.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or jasonfwright.com.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company