My oldest daughter, Brinley, is three years old. It is as if she plunged headfirst into a sudden world of curiosity and imagination the very day of her third birthday. At all waking hours her little brain is working overtime, as she drifts in and out of different realities: the imaginary versus the actual. In a single moment she has gone from sharing a cheese stick with a dinosaur to informing me about, “gooses [having] vewy wong wegs” (translation: geese have very long legs). She loves to eat imaginary food, and serve me the same plastic chicken leg with a pretend cup of coffee from her play kitchen seven times in one morning. She’s even got my one-year-old tasting invisible food like it is a perfectly normal thing to do, too. Her disregard for other’s opinions of her behavior is a beautifully curious (and comical) thing to behold.
Several nights ago I had a dream so vivid, so stirring I believe I will be processing it for weeks. In this dream Brinley and I were just going about our normal routine for the day. She was running in and out of her bedroom, telling me about the imaginary friends and animals she was playing with and cooking for (which she does in real life all the time). While I was cleaning the kitchen, she came in to tell me how she had been playing with God and Jesus in her room, and she scurried off because they were waiting on her. I smiled, as I unloaded the dishwasher, thinking how sweet it was that she considered God a friend she’d pretend play with at her miniature kitchen.
Brinley ran back into our actual kitchen several more times over the next couple of hours to tell me of the adventures she had been on with God as they were playing. I remember thinking (still in my dream) how interesting it was she had had the same “imaginary” friend, God, playing with her throughout the whole morning and afternoon. (Because, usually the original imaginary friend turns into a duck turns into a dinosaur turns into Spiderman, changing all day long.) After at least a dozen times throughout the day of returning to tell me that she had been playing with God, I finally turned to her, a little agitated with hearing so many times over of how she had been having a tea party and eating pretend food and doing “fuzzles” (puzzles) with God and Jesus in her room. A little on edge I said, “Brinley that’s really great, baby. I’m really glad you’re playing with God and Jesus today, but I need to finish what I’m doing, so please go play.” Instantly her excitement turned to sadness; her little face shifting shapes with the hurting of her precious heart. What had I done? What had I said to cause such a sudden change of emotion in her?
Speaking in a more intelligible manner than her usual three year old vocabulary, Brinley urged, “Mommy, you don’t believe me… You don’t believe I’m playing with God and Jesus in my room… But I am, Mommy. Go ahead, hug Jesus, He’s standing right here.” She gestured beside herself. My brain raced rapidly trying to conjure an explanation to explain the reality of imaginary friends, being that they don’t exist. Yet I knew these particular friends existed, and I became tongue tied, suddenly unable to differentiate between her imaginary world of play and the reality of an invisible God. A supernatural force compelled me forward. I stumbled toward the empty space next to Brinley. My arms reached outward to hug, “God,” for the sake of my daughter’s feelings. But as I bent my elbows, as if to wrap my arms around an actual person in a hugging manner, my fingertips pressed into something, something soft. It felt like velvet. It felt like royalty, like a royal robe. I squeezed tighter now, my arms fully embracing more than air. There was a sturdiness to his stature and a river of peace flowed from him to me. I secured my embrace and buried by face into his chest. I began sobbing tears from indescribable emotion. I became wrecked. I peeked my teary eyes toward Brinley, standing next to us, with a smile of sweet delight painted upon her glowing face.
I woke up with a jolt. I had been dreaming, but my body shook in reality. My heart pounded uncontrollably in my chest, like I had literally felt the thousand emotions I had just experienced in the dream. I tried to drift out of consciousness again, back to another reality, where I could physically touch the Creator of my life, and know all in my world was right, in the midst of my daily routine. While I could not fall back asleep, I really did not need to, because the dream felt so real, so tangible, I just lie still in the quiet, reminiscing of being encircled by my God.
For days I have been shaken by this dream; it has electrically charged my mind, my heart. I feel awakened to a new way of encouraging Brinley’s teetering between realities; encouraging her to incorporate more of her extraordinary imagination into our daily lives. I believe this innocence of childhood is so fleeting and the open gates of the spiritual world for the moldable mind of a tiny girl could be barricaded with the simple neglecting or opposing of drawing supernatural thinking into a natural world.
I have learned keys to dissolving stone filled spiritual ears, so I can hear the voice of my supernatural God. I have discovered disregarding the opinions of others, and embracing a God whose opinion is the only one that matters is the freest way to live. And He has given me this quirky little gift who delights in sharing imaginary jellybeans with me—and the “daddy bear from the woods,” of course. I imagine the possibilities of raising my children in a world where talking to and hearing from God was commonplace, and His interaction in our lives was pleasantly expected throughout the day. In the raising of Brinley and my other children, this will be normal. This will be our way of life.
I want to enliven, call out, and reassure my child’s abstract thinking. I don’t just want to raise a good child into a good adult. I want to keenly know her specific gifts and abilities, so I can call them out and ally with God for the plans He has to turn an inventive little girl into an extraordinary, bold, bright, beautiful woman of God, who hears her Daddy’s voice, and answers to His call. And all of that… starts right now, in the middle of our day-to-day, with all of her creative ideas and clever friends. Besides, if a heavenly God can come into our daily routine, to eat invisible food with my three year old like it is a perfectly normal thing to do, this Mommy can so get down with a plastic chicken leg and thimble of vaporous coffee, to teach my girl about interacting with her Savior.
by Jacqueline Fox