He — God was always a He — seemed mostly interested in what I did wrong. I was a good enough kid, but the God I grew up with — or maybe it’s just how I interpreted my Sunday school lessons — sent me to weekly confession to spew out all my errors. He, as I understood Him — always capital H — lived in faraway heaven and sported big white hair and a long gray beard. His index finger pointed at me. The oldest of seven, I was Mother’s helper, got all A’s in school, but on Saturdays I plumbed the depths of my conscience to find what this little girl could confess to that big priest in the small booth.

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession. These are my sins: I lied to my mother. I didn’t really vacuum under the bed. I stole a dime from my dad’s change plate.”

Did the man on the other side of the dark screen talk to the man in the sky? They were both quick to dole out penance.

I wanted a mother God, or at least a friendly one. I yearned for a deity I wouldn’t embarrass, one I’d be happy to introduce to my friends.

As I grew, I found other seekers who helped me find a divinity I could understand. It was not so much that I couldn’t hang out with a God, they told me, just that maybe I didn’t want to hang out with only a male type.

In a college Comparative Religions course, I learned about the female face of spirit, and about groups who honor a Higher Power and call it Grace, The Universe, the Creative Sprit, the Beloved, the Presence, or She Who Is. I learned that some people claim this Life Force is nameless and that God/Goddess can also love and forgive.

Since then, I’ve been wondering what I might call this special bigger-than-me energy. Then last week my 2-year-old visiting grandsons handed me an epiphany. Wearing flip-flops as I cleaned, I’d wipe countertops, dust, and make beds while Walker and Taylor played choo-choo train with our son’s wooden Brio set, saved for 25 years. At some point, Walker or Taylor would say, “Susu, shoes off. Sit.” They would squat, pat the floor next to them and gesture for me to stop all the busyness and play with them, be with them. Simple.

The first time I heard, “Susu, sit,” I smiled. Even though I drudged on with my grown-up chores, I grasped what the babies were telling me in their happy innocence: “We are here. Be with us. Let’s enjoy each other. This time is precious.”

The second time I heard, “Shoes off. Susu, sit,” I stopped; rather, I was stopped. I felt like a lightning rod electrified by a huge charge, perhaps like Moses must have felt when he heard his Lord say, “Take off your sandals. You are standing on holy ground.”

“Susu, sit” awakened me to the wonder in front of me, my own version of the burning bush. This waking up was no doubt smaller than Moses’ but it felt huge. The boys, as guides, invited me into presence.

Taylor and Walker called me into a loving attention my distant and distracted mind missed. Be here now. And when I listened, or more exactly when I heard them, when I took off my shoes and sat with them, the true miracle came.

After I plunked myself down, they said, “Close,” and snuggled up into me, wriggled right next to me, hip to hip. I felt them. I felt us. I knew this spot on the basement carpet was indeed deeply sacred ground. Maybe part of knowing God is seeing God’s many guises.

Walker and Taylor are home in Virginia now, but the echoes of these young spiritual teachers still resonate. In my forgetfulness, I feel myself filling with adult activity again, clomping around in my flip-flops, picking up dropped sippy cups and pajamas left under the pac-and-play. But when I remember, “Susu, sit,” I know I have heard sacred words: Sit and move in close to simplicity and innocence. Counting blessings in that sitting has to be at least as holy as counting sins.

God showed up for me last week as one toddler with chestnut hair and his blond twin. If we turn toward it, the message of the wise children-God, “Sit. Close,” is not so far away. Maybe we just have to listen for their small voice. Happy. Innocent. Precious.

Susan Lebel Young, MSEd, MSC, teaches mindfulness and yoga and is the author of “Lessons from a Golfer: A Daughter’s Story of Opening the Heart.” She can be reached at

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