Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When God Made You

It's hard to find children's picture books about God that don't make me cringe a little or change the language to re-interpret the theology while I'm reading or have pictures that reflect a diversity of people and culture. But recently I found Here Wee Read (@hereweeread) on Instagram. 

The reason I started following Here Wee Read, (which is also a website) is that Charnaie, the creator of the site and all its social media is an 'expert in diversity' and makes excellent suggestions of books that feature people of color or tell stories of black and brown leaders and innovators, and that help to introduce conversations about race even with very young children. I was delighted to learn that her suggestions sometimes also include books about God and/or the Bible.

When God Made You and When God Made Light are now regular reading at bedtime in our household. The illustrations are absolutely delightful and engaging; we pause at almost every page to talk about what's in the pictures because there are new things to notice, or we notice the same beautiful thing again and again. (It can take a long time to read these books because of this.) The lyrical, silly-serious lilt of the writing is fun to read and, as the kids say, gives me all the feels. Plus - and these are actually big ones for me - I never have to edit-as-I-go because the pronouns for God are Capital H He's, language for humanity is exclusive, or there's questionable theology, which I have to do even with the wonderful Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu.

The illustrations are such a celebration of the beauty, creativity and personhood of little black girls that I was surprised to learn in an interview with the author, Mathew Paul Turner, that both the author and the illustrator are white dudes. (Read the interview here with Traci Smith, author of Faithful Families). In the interview Turner talks about his own frustration with reading to his kids. wanting to acknowledge the light of God's creativity and love within his own children and not finding anything that quite fit what he was looking for. So he wrote it himself.

There are some lines I can barely read without busting out crying with the beauty of imagining my child and all our children and each of us in all our belovedness.

"You, you, when God dreams about you,
God dreams aout all that in you will be true.
That you - God's you - will be hopeful and kind,
a giver who live with all heart, soul and mind...
A mover, a shaker, a lover of nature.
A builder of bridges, you the peacemaker...
'Cause when God made you, all of heaven was beaming.
Over YOU, God was smiling and already dreaming."

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