After dropping Gwyn off for her first morning of preschool—she was too interested in the puzzles to say goodbye—I came home and cried. I was proud that she was eager and ready; I was thrilled for some extra time in my week; I grieved the seven hours I now won’t see her; and I ached for the baby who is no longer. Mostly I cried because this step is the first in a long progression as Gwyn begins a life quite separate from mine. She’ll make her own friends, eat food I don’t approve of, hear stories that scare her, and be exposed to people and ideas beyond my control.
As happens often with parenting, I find myself wondering what my feelings have to teach me about God. Surely the free will we’ve all been granted causes God lots of tears. I take comfort in the thought that this tremendous gift—self-determination; the freedom to find our way in the world without a manipulating, divine hand—might not be so simple for our maker. With free will we’ve been given the power to cause holocausts, to destroy our own environment, even to hurt our own children—as well as form healthy communities, create brilliant art, and bring peace into areas of conflict. Our potential for evil goes hand-in-hand with our potential for good.
Some days, after reading the headlines, our creator’s choice to give us free will seems like a crap shoot. Maybe God made a terrible mistake. But my tears at leaving Gwyn convince me that God’s first act with humanity was one of faith, a great faith that despite our proclivity to take other’s toys and run around during story hour, we humans will choose to grow, and grow toward good. From the beginning God believed in us. I can’t imagine a more loving act. And like Gwyn, who knows I’m cheering her from afar, I suspect God’s hidden in the fabric of creation weeping and cheering. –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew