My daughter looks exactly like me, down to the shape of her nose and the freckles liberally scattered over it. Her hair is a bit redder, eyes a bit greener, but subtract 30 years, and there I am.
What’s exciting and amazing me lately, though, is how different she is.
It’s also teaching me about God.
Last month, my daughter’s second grade class had Women’s History Day. All the kids were assigned a famous woman—she had Harriet Tubman—and they each gave short presentations. My daughter told me there would also be singing, and maybe snacks. I patted her on the head—I am sure I said something dismissive and forgot about it.
On performance day, they all got up to sing. I dutifully got out my phone to record my daughter’s part, and my jaw dropped. My husband and I looked at each other: SHE CAN SING. Like, really, really sing—sweetly and skillfully and in tune. My husband and I are both clergy and can competently lead sung prayer (he better than me), but neither of us sings. After school that day, I said to her, “Wow, you were really good. Like, you were one of the best.” Her response? “Yeah, I know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
She’s 8 ½. She doesn’t need me to hold the back of her bicycle as she pedals. She doesn’t need a spotter on the monkey bars. She’s athletic and extroverted and popular. I was never any of those things. Being the mother of someone who is? A matter of continual delight and perplexity.
“Yeah, I know.”
The wonder—and the joy—of this statement is how casually she dismissed me. It’s a reminder that I get to witness her growth. I get to collaborate and influence and cheer her on. But her personhood is completely separate. It’s not for me to sing the songs or shoot the basketball (in any case, I would miss). She lives in her own world. I’m in it, but I’m not in charge.
I have never much connected to parental imagery for God, but this moment of witness seems to me to be an icon. We are co-creating our lives and this world with God, who at the same time is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. I can’t help but wonder, though, if once in a while God looks at us and thinks, “Holy mackerel, I didn’t see that coming. That was fantastic!” She can sing!
Large and sweeping prayers and images of God’s love or Christ’s Body are great. It’s a lot easier to imagine God’s passion for the whole of humanity. But it isn’t enough; God’s love for us is personal and precise. That’s the window I get to look through as a parent. This is where I imagine standing next to God, marveling at my daughter from the audience, listening to her sing.
Imagining God standing in the audience marveling at me?
That’s pure grace.