Sometime between Christmas and Easter, Cady started confessing to me (and her dad and her grandparents and her Sunday School teachers) that she doesn't love Jesus and God. Um, what?!?! I have no idea where this came from, but it appears to be here to stay for a bit. In other words, it wasn't a one time thing. Is there anything that the toddler of 2 seminary trained religion professors could say that would bother them more? Probably not. At least, not at this stage of the game.
Mandy/Chad/other adult (sings some song about God/Jesus loving people)
C: I don't love God and Jesus.
M/C/OA: Well, they love you.
C: Why? I don't love them.
M/C/OA: Because God made you and thinks you are wonderful. God and Jesus both love you very much.
C: But I don't love them.
M/C: (huge sigh) That's fine, C. God loves you anyway.
C: Well, I don't love God. I love Mommy and Daddy and (here she lists a string of family and friends that she does love), but I don't love God.
Oh. my. word. Be still my heart. The first time this occurred (I think) was when C interrupted me singing "Tell Me Why" one night. I tried to have a conversation with her about it, but it didn't really go anywhere. We've decided not to make a big deal out of it because that seems to make it worse, but we have done our part trying to understand it. Cady LOVES going to church and increasingly she LOVES hearing Bible stories. But, she's not so sure about God and Jesus. And, while she'll pray before meals occasionally, she's growing unsure about doing that too (though she's happy for you to pray for the meal...usually!). Our best guess is that C says she doesn't love God because she doesn't know God/can't see God and, you know, that makes sense. We don't teach C about Santa or the Easter Bunny so she doesn't have any context for believing in the unseen outside of God and Jesus (which I think will pay off because our child will never equate - hopefully - the fictional characters of Santa Clause/Easter Bunny with our real, but unseen God).
I must admit I'm proud of C for not just taking our word for it that she should love God. I know she's only 3 and that part of this "I don't love God" phase is probably (mostly?) because she knows we want her to love God. BUT, I'm still proud of her questioning and her curiosity and her desire to understand. I'm also proud of how Chad and I have handled it. We want C to grow up being comfortable questioning the things we tell her...not "don't touch the stove" type things, but the things we tell her about God and Jesus and the Bible (and a whole host of other non-religious things, but that's a different post for a different day). I want her to read and discover and decide for herself. I want this for her because I want her to feel safe discussing her doubts and fears and concerns about God, Jesus, and the church with us...within the safety of our Christian home. I don't want my child's faith story to resemble that of so many people that I have come to know in my years since Judson. So many people choose to abandon their faith completely when they have questions because no one taught them to value their curiosity. They find their intellect incompatible with the faith they've been taught so they assume it's an either/or thing. I don't want that for C. Granted, part of having faith means not having all the answers, but it's not blind acceptance.
For now, we'll continue our new tradition of nightly Bible story time, continue listening to C talk about the "brave princess that's going to save Jesus," continue fielding questions about why some people wanted to kill Jesus, and continue taking her to church to be with people who love her and God. We'll pray that all three of us will emerge on the other end stronger, more committed Christians who are dedicated to the task of being the hands and feet of God in the world. And, yes, we hope she'll eventually admit that she loves God...and Jesus.