Temba loved to go to church with Granny. Granny had the biggest voice in the choir.
He liked to hear the stories his Sunday School teacher told from the big Bible she carried.
He loved the minister, who shouted and got excited when he preached, but always spoke kindly to the children, even the little ones.
But sometimes there were things Temba didn’t understand. He was too shy to ask his teacher who was busy with other children. He was too young to bother the minister who was very important. He never thought of asking God. God was big. Temba was little.
He would ask his granny. She read her Bible every day and knew almost as much about God as his Sunday School teacher or the minister.
“Granny, we sing about God and pray to God. What is God like?” Temba asked as they walked home from church.
“What do you think?” Granny asked.
“Is God like the minister--a wise man who helps people with their problems?”
“Yes, God is a little like the minister. God knows everything, and you can take God your problems.
“But God is not exactly like the minister,” Granny explained, “because God is not a man.”
Temba cocked his head and thought hard.
“God is a spirit,” Granny said.
A hot wind blew off the plain. The leaves rustled in the trees around them, and Granny had to hold onto her hat. “A spirit is like the wind. You can’t see it, but you know that it’s there.”
Temba chased a ball of fluff from the silk cotton tree as it blew down the road. “So that’s what God is like,” he said.
Soon they came to the stream. At this time of year it was just narrow enough to step across without getting wet if you came very near the edge and took a very big step onto the wide, flat stone in the center.
“God is like a firm rock that won’t give way,” Granny said as she took Temba’s hand and helped him jump from the stone to the road on the other side.
Temba gave his biggest jump and landed with both feet on the loose gravel. He looked back at his wet footprint on the rock. “So that’s what God is like,” he said.
Temba and Granny came near their own farm. There was Mama’s speckled hen teaching her chicks to scratch outside the thornbush fence. A stray dog rounded the corner and eyed the chicks with interest.
The mother hen clucked furiously, calling her little ones into the shelter of the thorns. She settled her wings protectively over their tiny bodies.
The dog trotted over and sniffed at the hen in the thorns. He gave a sharp yelp of pain and backed away, rubbing his scratched nose with a front paw.
“God is like a mother hen who calls her chicks to her and protects them,” Granny explained.
Temba squatted in the dust close to the hen while the dog retreated up the road. “So that’s what God is like,” he said.
Temba ran ahead of Granny to his mother’s house. Mama was sitting on the stoop sorting beans. Inside the rondavel baby Hannah began to whimper. Soon the whimper turned to a wail. Mama went inside and nestled her baby to her breast. In a moment little sister grew quiet.
Granny sighed. Her face crinkled with soft lines. “God is like a nursing mother who can never forget about her child,” she told Temba.
Temba gently stroked the baby’s soft head. He looked at his mother’s loving eyes. “So that’s what God is like,” he said.
Sipo came into the yard, calling excitedly. Temba rushed out of the hut. Sipo’s arms and legs were scratched with thorns and briars. He held a tiny goat in his arms.
“I found her!” he announced.
Sipo was the best herdboy in Kwazulu. At least, Temba thought so. Sipo had spent all morning trying to find the runaway.
“God is like a shepherd who searches everywhere for the lost sheep,” explained Granny, while Sipo bandaged the baby goat. “God never gives up until the wandering one is safely home.”
Temba handed Sipo the pot of ointment. “So that’s what God is like,” he said.
“Granny,” Temba said, sitting very close to her on the stoop. “God is like the minister, the wind and a rock, a hen, a mother and a shepherd. God is like so many things. God must be very big.”
“God is very big indeed,” agreed Granny. “But God loves little chicks, little babies, little goats.” She squeezed Temba tightly. “And little children.”
“So that’s what God is like,” said Temba, and he smiled.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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