(A reflection from Nancy’s time with family in Japan)
Some questions seem to come from left field; others, though, emerge from somewhere much deeper, the soul. Granddaughter asked me one of those deeper questions today.
We had a gentle day at home, filled with chores (laundry and dishes), playing a game (Mice and Mystics – we didn’t get very far) and Lego blocks, swimming, making brownies, the almost daily trek to the grocery store (since we were getting heavy things we needed both adults to be able to carry them home), and watching a bit of the Olympics.
This was not exactly the kind of day on which to expect one of these soul-opening questions on the lips of an almost four year old child. We were sitting together (well, actually I was sitting and she was in constant motion on me) watching her favorite movie, Toy Story 2, for the third time. Out of the blue she looked at me and asked if I liked good girls. As a priest I continue to learn how to listen to people. Knowing that her parents talk to her about being a good girl I knew she was, in some way, talking about herself. I told her that I did, indeed, like good girls, and that she was my favorite good girl. She smiled and hugged me. Then she asked me if I liked bad girls. Ah, the deeper truth about human behavior. We cannot always be “good” people. We make mistakes, we take short cuts that don’t work as planned, we make poor decisions, we don’t live up to the expectations we have of ourselves. I heard Granddaughter asking about herself – was she worth still being liked when she failed to be good. I looked straight into her eyes and said, “Yes, I love you even when you are bad. You are my granddaughter, and I love you very much all of the time.”
My answer struck gold – she was stock still (having been a wiggle worm for at least the past 45 minutes) and she beamed, radiating in the warmth of full acceptance. I was the recipient of a major hug, one that lasted for quite some time. Something deep inside her – what I would call her soul – wanted to know that the labels “good” and “bad” weren’t the last word on defining herself. I confirmed this when I told her that when she is good AND when she is bad, I will still love her. And so it is with God.