She is one of my Sunday school students in the first and second grade class, and you never know what she may do next. One Sunday, she called, “Miss Tammy, can I draw God?” And I replied, “Have at it.” Immediately, she popped back, “Can God be brown?” And I replied, “Sure enough.” Shortly she called me over to see her picture. I said, “That’s not brown. Did you change your mind?” And she said, “Yeah. God feels blue to me today. Is blue okay?” I assured her it was. After this experience, I came to expect a certain playfulness from this child, and she didn’t disappoint.
This past Sunday I served the bread as our church family took communion via intinction. My playful child came through the line with her grandmother, and I served her the bread of life. Towards the end of the communion line, she appeared again. Apparently, she had changed her seating from near the front with grandma to near the back with mom and dad. I smiled at her and offered the bread of life. She whispered, “I came back again.” I giggled, “Indeed you did.”
I enjoy her playfulness. Her beliefs that God changes colors and that seconds are always served at God’s table delight me. I love that this playful child is not constricted by what everybody else has told her about God. And I love that she is not restrained by the mantra of “that’s not how we do it here.” She is free to imagine God and free to experience church without the imposed rules that come with adulthood. She can experience God and church with freedom and joy. As I lead and teach this year, I want to experience God as bigger than what I already know about God. I want to spend time with people like Annie Lamott who can be with God in a playful manner. When tasked with a job at church, I want to ask, “Do we have to do this event this year? Do we have to follow the structure of how it has always been done?” God and church can be such a serious business for those of us who are called to ministry. This year I want to explore a more playful, freedom-giving side of both God and church. My playful student has inspired me.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.