If I could touch God, it would feel like my mom

By Robin Bartlett Barraza

My kids come with me to a church service in the late afternoons on Sundays at Hope Central Church in Jamaica Plain. This isn’t because I have decided to raise them Christian instead of UU; it is because my days at UUAC are long and my two-year-old, in particular, can’t handle being at church all day without turning into the anti-Christ, and that seems decidedly beside the whole point of going to church. And I need to worship. I need it big time. Working in a church doesn’t allow for that. I thank God every day for the churches that open at times other than Sunday mornings; churches that pastor to the pastors and the pastors’ kids.

So both of my kids are learning to be more Christ-like (I hope!) at a scrappy, spirit-filled, loving United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ church that I adore with all my heart. My two year old only has to be there for an hour or so, and they let her run up and down the aisles and give her all you can eat “Jesus bread” at the communion table. This is what building the kin-dom is about, my people.

Anyway, this week, while the grown ups reflected on Lent and the nature of God, my kids were in the RE class also learning about the nature of God. They read Sandra Eisenburg Sasso’s book, “What is God’s Name?” Then they were asked what God was like through their senses.

My two-year-old said:
“If I could touch God, God will feel like my mom,” (which made me cry, and forced me to forgive her for every obnoxious and defiant “no!” She has thrown at me this week. I imagine God would feel like a mother if I touched God, too. Forgiving my every tantrum and my every defiant “no,” with a warm embrace before I fall asleep.)

My six-year-old said:
“I would feel happy that I found God. It feels soft.”

The two of them said:
“If God had a sound, she would sound like a butterfly and flowers with a low voice.”

“If God were a color, God would be white, of course.” (As a good white liberal, this quote made me turn five shades of red and purple until the teacher explained that my children said they found God mostly in snow. I still plan to pull out Peggy McIntosh’s “unpacking the invisible knapsack” as bed time reading for tomorrow. Don’t worry.)

“If God were music, God would be a big drum….and a harp with a low sound.”

“God looks like a tall building (Eloisa) and God looks like snow (Cecilia).”

My six year old’s question about God:

“How did God turn into a human?”

Her answer:

“With love and happiness.”


Don’t be afraid to ask your kiddos what God looks and feels and sounds and smells and tastes like, even if you can’t conceptualize of these questions yourself. Even if you yourself don’t believe in God. Our youngest children are often our best spiritual teachers. We lose that unabashed love and awe of mystery as we get older (though it often returns to us again in our elder-hoods).

You might be surprised by the answers. Your kids may even answer some of your own questions about God.

I’m pretty sure God smells like the intoxicating aroma of baby shampoo mixed with summer kid head sweat as I nuzzle my babies’ little heads before they go to bed, and feels like the exhausted and overwhelming love that cancels out every sibling throw down and every time-out-inducing sassy comment I bore witness to that day.

God also smells like coffee the next morning, after my two year old has woken me up three times at 1, 3 and 5 am. Amen.

10 thoughts on “If I could touch God, it would feel like my mom”

  1. Your kids, most kids, don’t ‘come to church,’ they are taken, sent or made to go. A 3/4/6/8/10 yr old doesn’t know what God looks, smell or feels like, but they do know what they are taught and raised to believed by their parents and community. My daughter has none of those revelations: she doesn’t go to church…but she knows what coffee smells like.

    1. Yes, of course we force our kids to go to church. I make my kids do all kinds if things they might not have chosen for themselves because i believe it is good for them. But I certainly never taught my kids that God looks like snow and sounds like flowers and butterflies. That’s the pure stuff that parents can’t indoctrinate kids with…it just comes out of their own perfect sense if mystery. If only I was a mystic of that quality. Off to drink my coffee. 🙂

  2. This past Halloween my 6-year old nephew was considering costume options. At one point he said to me, “I think I’ll be God for Halloween.” “What does a God costume look like?” I asked. “A giant tree on my head and all dressed in green,” he replied, with a faint tone of “Duh, you ridiculous grownup.” <3

    1. LOVE it. Sometimes I get jealous that my kids know God so much better than I do. I’d love for them to introduce me sometime. Like “Hey God, this is my mama. She is totally devoted to serving you, but she doesn’t really get it most of the time. And the rest of the time, she is a doubting Thomas. Thank goodness I’m around to tell her what you’re ACTUALLY like.”

    1. Thank you, Rev. Karla, for nurturing the mystical in my children, and sharing that with me. Sometimes (all the time) we need other people to bring out the godly parts in our kids when we can’t find them through the sea of boogers and bad behavior.

      1. no kidding. that willingness to see the holy in my children (where I admittedly sometimes lose that light from moment to moment, particularly in situations of public embarrassment) is one of the greatest gifts that my church offers to my family. I think that loving acceptance is actually one of the greatest gifts that we can offer to anyone–I hope that we practice it, and think of it, each Sunday and as we plan for things like stewardship season.

        anyway, loved this post–thanks so much.

  3. Last year, Quentin was asked a similar question during his UU RE class, only they replaced “God” with “Love.” He said that love tastes like animal crackers (I had bought him some of the gluten free variety recently), smells like nature, and looks like Addie (his little girlfriend, who goes to our church). It is a wonderful reflection, and so much fun to hear what the kids come up with. <3

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