Last Sunday in church we had a missionary on furlough speak to us. At one point he began to talk of the return of Christ and what it meant for mission work. Eden, who was sitting on my lap, turned to me in great excitement and said in a loud whisper, "He said when Jesus come back!"
I said, "Yes, he's talking about when Jesus comes back -- that's right!"
Eden, literally bouncing up and down with excitement, said, "When Jesus come back I get to pet the little baby cheetah!"
We try to talk about the resurrection and return of Christ regularly and often to Z and Eden, and both Nathan and I are thrilled to see how it is affecting the way they understand who Jesus is and who they are in relation to him. But talking about Jesus coming back can be difficult, because we're not sure what it will look like, and we're not sure how to articulate what will happen. But going off of Ephesians 3:20, which speak of God as the one "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine", we encourage the kids to think about the New Heavens and the New Earth with a wild imagination. As far as I'm concerned, anything goes, as long as it's not directly opposed to Scripture or Jesus. (For example, imagining getting even with the mean kids at school isn't going to fly.) So Eden's imaginative picture of the resurrection right now is seeing herself petting a baby cheetah.
When Eden got excited in church last Sunday, at first I thought it was kind of cute. Then I thought maybe it shows the questionable theology of a 2 year old. Then I saw it as really a profound moment, in which my own theology could be sharpened by Eden's theology.
First, how wonderful that her ears are attuned to the words, "When Jesus comes back." Z has done this before too. It's like they have radar on that is searching for those words, and when they hear it, all their attention is focused on it. Shouldn't we all be anticipating the return of Christ so much that even the words that symbolize that idea should instantly focus our attention and at the same time fill us with so much excitement we can barely sit still!
Second, Eden's vision of petting the baby cheetah is almost identical to Isaiah's vision of the restored earth, where "the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. Infants will play near the hole of the cobra; young children will put their hands into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is. 11:7-9). Eden's desire to pet the baby cheetah is simply the desire for life without fear, without pain, without death; the desire for life with reconciliation, with power, with eternity, with God.
All of which reminded me, because of my tendency to look down on or be amused by the theology of 2 year olds, of the following quote from Martin Luther: "Now the Holy Ghost does not consider red caps or brown, or any other pomp, nor whether we are young or old, layman or priest, monk or secular, virgin or married; nay, he once spoke by an ass against the prophet that rode on it. Would to God we were worthy to have such doctors given us."