A while ago, when Abigail was nearly a year old, a good friend asked me what becoming a mother had taught me about God. I had to tell him to wait for the answer, as it was going to take me several days to think about a question like that!
After a good deal of thought (and gentle nagging from my friend who wanted his answer!) I eventually replied that most of all, motherhood had taught me about how utterly uncompromising God must be, how demanding of perfection. It was a reply that surprised even me slightly, but try as I might I couldn't truthfully say anything slushier or gentler. My experience of motherhood so far had shown me how fiercely and instinctively protective I was of my child, to the extent that I didn't want anything bad to happen to her at all - from pain and illness right down to not quite being fed on time, my desire for her experience of life was absolute perfection.
Of course it's something that no parent can provide, and of course in this world every negative experience is a necessary character-building mountain to scale and all the rest of it, but for the first time I fully understood why God demands the impossible - perfection - in his world, and why He was prepared to go to such extraordinary lengths to achieve it. I really think that I would take any pain in Abigail's place if I could. I don't feel that way about The Rev or any other of my family or friends - I can say that I hope that I would, ideally, be self-sacrificial for them, but with my daughter it's different - a deep, instinctual knowledge that yes, I would.
At the time, I couldn't think of anything else significant that I'd learned from the great Theological College of Motherhood, but more recently Abigail has been producing plenty of sermon-filling incidents. It must be something to do with becoming a toddler. I don't doubt that The Rev is keeping a catalogue to bring out on future occasions (poor girl...) One that I noticed tonight was about communication and prayer.
Abigail was having her supper when suddenly, she started asking for the cheese grater. No, she doesn't speak yet, but I knew she was asking for the cheese grater: she was reaching towards it and doing her "uh uh uh uh" noise with which she usually makes herself understood. So I said, as you'd expect a responsible mother to say, "No, dear, you can't have the cheese grater".
Now, I have no idea whether Abigail understands exactly what I say, but as she continued her escalating frustrated squeals, it occurred to me that she probably has no idea whether I understand what she is saying either. How can she tell the difference between my incomprehension of what she wants and my answer being "No"? The only way that Abigail can be sure I've heard her is if she gets what she wants. If she doesn't, then naturally she simply continues to ask, getting louder and more tearful all the time. Which describes my relationship with God more or less perfectly. Is it any wonder that a "No" or a "Not yet" from heaven simply sounds like resounding silence? But until I know for sure that I've been heard, I'll just keep going!
Dear God, uh uh uh uh uh UH UH UH UH!!!! Amen.