Children often have problems with generalization and conceptualization. For example, when I was very young I was told that Jesus lived in the tabernacle. Fine I thought, then that must mean there is furniture and stuff in there. So when the priest opened the tabernacle up on the high altar, I earnestly looked for the furniture and perhaps the little stair case going to a second floor, much like my sister’s dollhouse was set up.
But then the Nuns threw me for a loop in Sunday School when they asked “Where is God?” And then they supplied the answer, “Everywhere.” But wait a minute, I thought they said he lived in the tabernacle. And thus I could not generalize and specify very well with my 6 year old brain.
As for conceptualization, I remember being told by my mother that we were going to join my Father (who was in Vietnam at the time) for a two week vacation in Hawaii. She showed me the location of the Island chain on a globe in our house and I was immediately anxious. “How could we all fit on those little islands? They looked so tiny, and I could not conceptualize the notion of scale. I was truly shocked when my mother told me that not only could we all fit on those islands, but so could thousands of other people and also that our airplane could land on these seemingly tiny islands with room to spare. But for a seven year old brain this was all very implausible and I remained nervous about going to these little islands.
Yet another struggle I had was when I was told were going to move from Chicago to Florida. I asked my mother, “How will God be able to find me if we move?” I was actually quite concerned that even if He could find me, He might not want to walk that far to see me. I guess you might say I thought of God in a very localized way, a kind of local deity. Mother of course tried to reassure me but I wasn’t so sure.
I thought of that when I saw the video below. It is of a young boy who moves with his parents to a new house, somewhat near Christmas time. And he is obviously concerned to let Santa know his change of address so that the presents will be properly delivered. It’s quite cute really and a reminder of my earlier years with a more primitive brain.
Spiritually, though we likely move beyond the materially heretical notion of God as a “local deity” who might not want to walk so far to see us, it is still possible that we struggle at times with the notion that God has somehow forgotten, or forsaken us. When times get rough we may wonder where he is. In the video, “Santa” (a name which means “Holy one”) can represent God. And sometimes we need others, such as this young boy’s parents in the commercial, to help reassure us that God, the Holy One, is not far, has not forgotten and is well aware of our every move.
When God seems far or forgetful, it is good to have the Church and others in our life to remind us that God is more present to us that we are to ourselves, more knowing of us than we know ourselves.
A young monk went to the Abbot and said, “What am I to do about the distance I feel from God?” And the Abbot said, “Understand that it isn’t there.” “Does that mean that God and I are one?” Asked the monk. “Not one, not two.” Said the Abbot. “How can that be?” said the monk. The Abbot answered: “The ocean and its wave, the singer and his song…not one, not two.”
Enjoy this video and remember the word of the Lord, I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Is 49:16)