From time to time my wife and I sit with the kids and take a look at their latest drawings. Generally the pictures are pretty consistent—Daddy has the orange curly hair, the flowers are bigger than the people, and the shining sun has a big happy grin. But one day my five-year-old daughter Ne’ema brought us a drawing that in addition to the usual stuff featured a bizarre purple-green figure floating in the sky.
“Ne’ema,” I asked, “who is this?”
She pretended not to hear my question and began talking about something else in the picture.
I was persistent until finally she couldn’t escape identifying Mister X.
She motioned to me to come close, so she could whisper in my ear and protect her secret from her brothers and sisters close by. “It’s God.”
Of course my other kids would not stand for any secrets. They pushed forward to listen in. When my son Yehuda heard what she said, he burst out, “You drew God? You can’t draw God!”
Ne’ema grabbed the picture and darted for her room crying, “I can draw God if I want to!”
Now imagine that at age twenty-five Ne’ema continued to think that God is a purple-green guy-in-the-sky. Surely if someone were to ask her whether she believed in God she would respond, “What? Of course not.” She would probably consider herself an atheist. (My standard response to an atheist is, “The God you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either.”)
Most of us retain some sort of image of God from our childhood, and if we think for a moment, we might recall when the idea first registered on our juvenile consciousness. Many of us have been influenced by the Greek and Roman images of Zeus, others by Michelangelo’s version in the Sistine Chapel, which looks every bit like old Zeus himself. It is no wonder that so many children (and adults too) imagine God as a powerful, aged man with a flowing white beard. Children need to give God a physical form, otherwise they cannot comprehend the idea. For them an invisible, incorporeal God is simply not there.
In a child’s mind, according to his or her level of comprehension, God has to have a body, an imaginable form of some kind, to exist. But as the child grows up, as he matures intellectually and spiritually, he or she needs to find a new paradigm—a new framework for understanding God, for experiencing God. The problem is that most of us don’t.
Explore this concept more deeply in Seeing God: Ten Life Changing Lessons of the Kabbalah