Great and Good
I spend weekday lunchtime with my five and four-year-old kids. We have funny conversations about things that make them laugh. They do a pretty good job listening to each other because lunch is a magical time in the middle of the day when they’re not too tired to treat each other well. Nora usually does our prayer, because she’s the oldest and most seasoned pray-er of the two. She uses her old preschool prayer even though she’s a big kindergartener now. Today, however, Grady elected to pray. He said his preschool prayer which is a little different from Nora’s because he’s in a different class. He closed his eyes and whispered, “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”
It brought me back to being a child. I remember hearing that prayer and not understanding it at all. In my mind, great was really good and good was just regular good. It felt like we were making a statement and then back-pedaling into something more manageable.
As an adult, I realized that great and good weren’t varying degrees of goodness. Great means huge, powerful, other. Good isn’t less than great, but it shows us how God uses his greatness. The three words I used to define greatness could be used for a villain too. But it’s how God uses His greatness that makes Him good.
It’s amazing how much theology can be found in this fourteen-word prayer recited by children.
It makes me wonder about a few things.
1. Why do I underestimate God’s power?
When I was in college, I was a part of a ministry which was holding an event. We prayed before one of the planning sessions. I quietly prayed something like, “Dear God. Please let at least one person show up.” When it was my (then boyfriend) now husband’s turn to pray, he said, “God we expect you to come thorough. Fill this place with people who need to hear about you.” I was floored. And although I’ve been married to him for 16 years, I’m often still the timid girl praying tiny prayers to an all-powerful God who’s just waiting to show what He can do.
2. Why don’t I trust the goodness of God?
There are people in my life I trust implicitly for certain things. Those I can always trust to recommend a good book. I can literally call my sister at anytime and trust her to have a comprehensive understanding of the weather forecast for the next few days. I can also trust her to drop everything if I need her help. I don’t doubt these friends will come through because they are good friends. Yet, my God, the one who died on a cross to save me, I forget that He’s good. That’s just foolish.
3. Why I don’t tell more people about my great AND good God?
I’m more likely to say something about my church or something my pastor said when what I need to say is, “God is great and God is good.” I imagine the reason many people won’t darken the doors of church is because they have this perception of God as always angry and ready to punish. You don't have to be around too long to encounter more than a few angry and punishing Christians. Unlike us, God is actually great and actually good.
Once, when I was in New York, I saw a crowd of people standing outside a building. When I got a closer look, I saw that Bruce Willis was there. It was really cool and for a few weeks I told pretty much anyone who would listen that I saw Bruce Willis. And yet, I have the ability to engage the creator of the universe at any time of the day or night, and I can go weeks without telling a soul.
I think I’ll pray Grady’s little prayer more often. It’s a good one. I may even take some time to explain what it means to my lunch bunch. I’d hate for them to make it to adulthood before understanding that God is great and good.