“I see it, I see it,” said Hazel, pointing to my small paisley decorated retractable tape measure.
“What do you see?” I asked.
“The virus. I see the virus!”
For over a year now our lives have been rerouted and turned upside down because of “the virus”. Hazel has often referred to “the sickness”. Hazel is four and, despite being her grandma, I declare she is nigh a genius. 🙂 Her mind is continually picking up things said, things seen, things smelled, and integrating them quickly into her vast repertoire of knowledge, then easily figuring out a way to express those new discoveries. So, like a true nurse educator and science lover, I said,
“Oh, nobody can see the virus except with a very powerful microscope. But Hazel, here… (I pulled up the image on my phone), this is the coronavirus. See, they made a picture of what it looks like under a microscope.”
Even Julian, my curious two year old grandson, came near to see it too. They both studied it.
Hazel paused for a while…..
“But, is it real?” she asked.
“Well, this is a picture of it, but this is not the actual virus here in my hands.” I said.
“What?” answered Hazel.
“Well–like when I have a picture of you–see?” I showed her a picture of herself on my phone. “That is a picture of you. You are real, but that is not you. You are real, but that is just a picture of you.”
At this point I was even getting confused. We started taking pictures of things with the iPhone and then showing the real thing next to the picture of the real thing, but she kept saying,
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
This was the first time I had encountered Hazel being stumped and it surprised me.
But it got me thinking. Thinking about this world she’s raised in. Watching TV, animation and news come into the living room back to back. Every Christmas and Easter we walk the tightrope of whether Santa or the Easter Bunny are real. Then there’s God and Jesus. We read Bible stories and then Paw Patrol stories, Anatomy books and books of fairies, then of angels. We go to church and say grace at meals and even whisper prayers in the air from time to time:
“Is there really a Chase and Rubble? Is that really what my body looks like inside? Are angels real? Are fairies? Is God really real? Is Jesus God?
What is real?
And, how do you explain that to a four year old. And how do we even know that ourselves?
Because of art and books and movies and TV, and video games, anyone’s imagination can become visible. So, anything and everything seems real when brought to the vision and hearing–especially to that of a child. Is this touching on why Jesus said:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Children are sponges and readily receive the reality of the kingdom of God. Even great thinkers like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton entered kingdom realities through the portals/wardrobes of childhood’s believing. To my logical mind, this seems reckless. Hazel has imaginary friends and talks to them. Who knows, but that to her, our prayers seem like talking to imaginary friends. We have “pictures” of Jesus, but we explain that’s not really a photograph or even painting of the real Jesus–nor is the picture the actual Jesus himself. And then there comes the explaining that not all people even believe that God is real. And not all people believe Jesus is God. He wants us to come to him in faith. Our belief in him is what takes us to the doorknob to open the door and “see him”.
But this is not just a God conundrum. There are some who do not believe there is a coronavirus and they live as though there isn’t. There are consequences to that action; but the virus doesn’t exist or not exist, infect or not infect, its substance and reality do not change, based on whether we believe strongly enough in it. It just is what it is.
The God of the Old Testament introduced himself as, “I Am Who I Am.”
The substance, the reality of God, does not rely on our belief, but our faith in him opens or shuts the door to our friendship with him. Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do the crowds say I am?” Then Jesus asks the REAL question: “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?”
Jesus introduced himself as I Am:
“I am the bread of life.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“I am the door.”
“I am the good shepherd.”
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” he asked.
Do you believe this? Is God real? … even if we don’t have a microscopic close up photo of him? Are you living like God is real? Today Jesus asks each one of us what he asked his disciple:
“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Scriptures referenced above include Exodus 3:14, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18, Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20, John 6:35, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11, John 11:25, 26, John 14:6, John 15:5