Since their births, our four grandbeans have absorbed the habits of their nearest and dearest adults. I should mention here that their daddy is a preacher. That their grandfather is the Preacher. And that Mama and Nana preach too, in and out of the pulpit, in words written, spoken and sung.
Surrounded by such adults, it’s not surprising that the Beans would receive advanced classes in early spirituality. Some days I’m not sure that’s optimal.
Our third grandbean joined the Preacher and me for lunch the other day. At the tender age of four, Dinah is experimenting with her fledgling faith — and finding it useful.
“This is TOO spicy,” she said, of her tamale square.
“Ah,” said I. “That’s why I also made mashed potatoes.”
She dipped the tip of her spoon into the spuds on her plate. “But I don’t WIKE smashed potatoes.” she said. Then she put the spoon down. “Nana, I want salsa on my potato.”
I put salsa on the potato. She played with it a moment. “Nana,” she said sadly, “Ahm NOT hungry.” She slipped off her chair and left the table, then, minutes later, bounced back. All happy. “Nana, I want a snack.”
“No snack. You haven’t finished your mashed potato and salsa or your tamale square. Around here, nobody gets snacks if they haven’t eaten their lunch.”
“I don’t WIKE it,” she said, and retreated again. Then returned, seconds later. “Nana, God is hungry.”
I almost dropped my fork. “Pardon me?”
“God is hungry!”
I gulped. “And how do you know God is hungry?”
“He told me.”
“He told you?”
“Uh, huh. God is in my heart and God said he’s hungry. He needs to eat.”
“WELL then,” says I. “No offense intended, but God can eat YOUR lunch.”
“Nope,” said the little con-artist, flouncing off for the third time. “God doesn’t like salsa either.”
At an after-church dinner, on another day, Dinah sat next to her older brother, who took his turn making contrary comments about Nana’s food. Eating quietly (God liked her food that day), she listened to his complaints. After several miserable minutes, she’d heard enough. Lifting her pointer finger, she wagged it under his nose, and quoted from Philippians 2:
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God…!” Sermon text finished, she added the application: “Benjamin, dat’s what YOU need to do!” On the YOU, she poked his shoulder, and resumed eating. He howled, and the surrounding adults — at least this one — nearly choked.
“How to Use Religious Words to Manipulate Nana and Coerce Your Brother.” Who taught her that deeply spiritual lesson?
Faith, they say, is more caught than taught. Some days I think we preachers should all just shut up and start tossing more love and fewer words — especially in the presence of children.