“What does God look like?”
Katie was pushing the last of her coco pops round her cereal bowl thoughtfully. Luke wondered how his daughter had managed to bypass wondering whether God actually existed and get straight to wondering what he looked like. He should never have let Rebecca drag them all to church for six months just so she could get her into that church school. The standards might be better but as far as he was concerned there was definitely a down side.
“Why do you want to know that?”
He realised that he should have said that God didn’t look like anything because he didn’t exist but not all atheists could be Richard Dawkins. It had always seemed to him rather stupid to start arguments which might upset people over something that didn’t exist, especially when the person concerned was only six and a half.
“Well the vicar was saying stuff in assembly about what God is like but he never said what he looked like.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know.”
Katie looked at her father pityingly.
“Of course he knows. He’s the vicar.”
Luke remembered the vicar. Well meaning, earnest, and just a bit dull. When Katie had first had to sit through his sermons during family services at the age of four and a half she had taken to calling him Mr Blah Blah, and Luke had joined in until Rebecca stopped him.
“There are pictures of God, but they’re only pictures of what people think God might be like. Nobody has seen him.”
“So how does the vicar know what sort of person he is if he’s never seen him?”
“That’s a very hard question.”
Katie’s father decided it was time to take a stand.
“He might not be there at all.”
“Why is it silly?”
“Well, because they don’t tell us stuff that isn’t real at school.”
“Perhaps they think it’s real when it isn’t.”
There was a long silence while Katie drank her juice and her father started to clear away the breakfast things. He had just begun to think that he was going to get away without any more questions when she piped up again.
“He said God made everything but he didn’t. People make things, or they just grow. And animals are born, made by their mummy and daddy, not God.”
She looked at her father accusingly.
“That’s what you said.”
“Yes, I did.”
Luke had the distinct feeling that he was getting in far too deep for his own good. Rebecca had only stopped believing in Santa the previous Christmas. He really didn’t want any more scenes of disillusionment and upset. She had the whole of the rest of her life ahead of her for that.
“Well when things are made you always have to start with something. You can’t make something from nothing.”
“That would be magic.”
“Yes. It would, and magic definitely isn’t real.”
“Not even Harry Potter.”
“Especially not Harry Potter.”
“God must be a story.”
“Maybe. A very old story.”
“Who made it up?”
“A lot of different people. People who like telling stories.”
“So do I have to keep praying to him then?”
Luke was startled by this. He had never seen his daughter pray. He wasn’t sure that he wanted her to. What else had been going on that he didn’t know about?
“I didn’t know you prayed.”
Katie eyed him slyly, sensing that telling her father about this might not have been a good thing. She half remembered her mother saying something about it being secret.
“I do if it’s mummy who comes up to say goodnight. Sometimes anyway.”
“What does mummy say about God?”
“She likes Jesus. I don’t know what she thinks about God.”
Luke grinned to himself. He was not, he really was not, going to try to explain the Holy Trinity. Whatever it was……………
“I think you should ask her. See what she says.”
Just so long as he didn’t have to talk to Rebecca about God. Ever. There had been a hell of a row before he had agreed to go and sit with his wife and daughter in church. Words like brainwashing and even abuse had been thrown around, but she had been adamant. He had seen nothing during the six months that he had sat there, insulated from his surroundings in his own miserable little bubble, to prove him wrong. He had agreed to give it six months and he had stuck to it. When Rebecca had asked him why he wasn’t going to go with them any more he had told her that it was naff and not intellectually rigorous enough. She had been angry, but nothing more had been said. He had allowed Katie to wave her Sunday school worksheet at him each week, said well done, and that was all. A truce. A kind of existential ceasefire if you like.
“Why don’t you draw mummy a picture of what you think God looks like? See what she says.”
Katie got down from the table and fetched her drawing pad, pencil and crayons. Luke watched as she settled herself back at the table to draw a large round face with a down turned mouth and a shock of dark hair spreading out over the paper. When she had finished God also had a long thin body and round ears and he was wearing a dark blue jumper and black trousers. In fact God looked a lot like Luke. Which was disconcerting.
“God looks a bit fed up.”
“He’s ok. He’s just having a bad day. Do you like him daddy?”
Luke looked at the drawing and a reluctant grin spread across his face. How could you not admire a God who turned out to be the spitting image of yourself?
“I do like him. I like him very much indeed.”
“What does God look like?”