My one-year-old has been insisting that I read him this one particular book over and over. I’ve tried to hide it. The poor kid threw his hands in the air, turned purple, and cried “Gone, gone!” That was too much for me to resist. So yeah, we read this book a lot.
It’s called “A Love Letter From God,” and it has one particular line where God is telling the child, “I’ll send you the sunrise in the wee morning hours. I’ll waken the songbirds and open the flowers. I’ll lift up the sky, turning yellow to blue…and give you some showers, with a rainbow or two!”
The first seven or eight times I read it, I thought, “Very poetic and all, but God makes the sun rise for everybody, not just one person, no matter how special he is.” I’m afraid I can be kind of cranky about these things, especially in the morning. (I’m working on it.) The ninth time around, though, I thought, “Wait, what if it’s true?
Human beings have this tendency to lump everything into categories. We can’t help it; it’s how we process the enormous detail that the world throws at us. We can’t see every individual flower for what it is, so we say “Daisies are the ones with a yellow center and a flat ring of white petals.” Then when we see a flower with those characteristics, we say, “Look, it’s a daisy.” If we couldn’t do this, we’d need an individual name for every individual daisy, and the human mind doesn’t have that kind of storage capacity. We compensate by grouping details into broader categories.
Human beings use language inductively. We take the specific details of a thing (white petals, yellow center, eight inches tall, etc.) and use it to form a general idea: all things of that description are daisies.
But this silly, sappy kid’s book that I read out loud so often forcibly reminded me that God doesn’t use language like we do, or think like us. He doesn’t need to.
God doesn’t see the world in terms of general categories, for the very simple reason that he doesn’t need them. He is plenty big enough to see each flower of the field, each sparrow, and certainly each human person, in all its individual glory. He doesn’t reduce us to “humanity.” He just sees you, you alone, you in all of your uniqueness and individuality.
I feel a little bashful about it, but that kid’s book has made me much more aware of God’s love for me. Because if (a) God makes the sun rise every morning, and (b) God doesn’t see “the human race” en masse, but sees and responds to each person individually, then doesn’t it follow that He has made the sun rise for me individually?
Certainly, He has made the sun rise for that guy fixing his car across the street, and for the jogger who just ran past my window, and for you at your computer, too. But that doesn’t mean He didn’t lift that great, white-hot sphere of fire up over the horizon for me myself, specifically. When God “wakens the songbirds and opens the flowers,” He is doing that for me, and for you, and for every individual person on this green Earth, not—and this is the important part—for all people, but for each person.
The sunrise, and the warm morning air, and the silver dew that soaked my shoes this morning when I followed my son through the unmown grass behind my house, and every lovely thing that I daily encounter, is a personal gift and a gesture of love. Not a gift to humanity, because that’s not how God thinks. The glory of the world is a personal gift to me, to you, and to each person who has eyes to see.
So I suppose what I got from reading that book over and over is one more huge reason to be grateful.
More to read: Why I’m So Picky About the Religious Books My Kids Read