They are three little girls like stairsteps at the table across from me– 2nd grade, 1st grade, kindergarten. One set of too-big grown-up teeth, one laughably naked upper gum, one even row of baby teeth. So many changes in just a couple years.
We are learning a verse together, in dramatic fashion, because all of them want to talk and go play and run out for a drink and maybe go to the bathroom twelve times, and so I am pulling out all my years of high school drama class and waving my arms and speaking in an overloud excited voice.
“Psalm 138, verse FIVE!” I say, holding out my hand with five fingers up. “Yes,” (a vigorous head-nod) “they will siiiiiiiiiiing” (sung loudly, in a high-pitched falsetto, with hands clasped in proper opera style) “of the ways” (my two hands go out in front of me like the outline of a road) “of the LORD” (pointing up to the sky with both hands) “for GREAT” (arms spread as wide as they’ll go) “is the GLORY” (arms make a big wide circle with twinkly fingers) “of the LORD!!!!!” (arms finish their circle and return to pointing up at the sky”
By the time I have done this four or five times, they have stopped looking at me like I’ve completely lost my mind and have started joining in on some of the words. I encourage them to do the motions, and pretty soon there are four vigorous head-nods; four high-pitched falsettos; and eight hands and arms pointing, sweeping, twinkling in one giant motion as they chant with me “GREAT is the GLORY of the LORD!”
“Let me say it,” begs Miss Second Grader, who nearly falls out of her chair with the vigor of her head-nod. I nudge her through the verse by silently doing the motions.
“My turn!,” interjects the Toothless One, her hair bobbing around with every word in her I-Dream-of-Jeannie ponytail. When she reaches the word sing I expect they can hear her in the next county.
I turn to the Kindergartener, who isn’t usually in this group and isn’t convinced she wants to be. “Do you want to try?” I ask.
“I dunno,” she shrugs. I’ve been watching her and I’m pretty sure she’s got it down.
No motions or dramatic vocalization here. Just the words: “Yes, they will sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.”
We all cheer.
“Wait a minute,” I command. “What is glory? Does anyone know? What is this verse even talking about?”
Miss Second Grader is very excited and sure she knows. “Um, it’s like, God and Jesus and stuff.” The kids know that Jesus is often a safe answer to questions at church. (Maybe they’re not so wrong, even when it’s not the answer I’m looking for.)
“Does anyone else have any ideas? Toothless?”
She is brimming with it. “Glory is like all sparkles and glitter.” A passing adult hears this and stands in the hallway, silently laughing.
I try to explain the glory of God– how can I?– How God is wrapped up in light and that is His glory, how it is so huge and bright and amazing that if we saw it now it would kill us, but one day we will be given new eyes to see and we will be able to see Him in all His glory. And I tell them about Psalm 19:1, about how the sky and the stars and the sun and the moon declare His great glory.
They are wiggly, so we return to more recitations of our verse. They are eager to say it over and over, to declare with the heavens the glory of God. I am distracted as I think of the galaxies spinning and the pictures of space where the stars look like so much glitter flung across the dark and the black.
That toothless first grader is mine, and she loves glitter. Our house seldom is free of rogue sparkles from art projects involving construction paper and glue and a rainbow of glitter. It drives my menfolk crazy, but it’s just life with a little girl. On the messy days, when the house is overwhelmed with laundry and dishes and stacks of books and papers everywhere, the little sparkles on the carpet remind me that there is a little girl in my house who loves her family and friends and wants to fill their lives with artistic beauty rendered in glitter and crayon.
My glorious God is like that too. He scatters stars in the heavens, and He scatters glory everywhere– sometimes it’s just not as obvious as a galaxy or a marvelous mountain experience. On the hardest, darkest days in the desert or in the valley, He might not send a flood of glory; but He always leaves His little glowing reminders that He is there, that He loves me, and that He is the beautiful God of the shining mountaintop.
Maybe my toothless first grader wasn’t so wrong after all. Maybe sometimes glory is like glitter and sparkles.
Thank You, Lord, for the tiniest sparks of glory in the darkest places and the biggest messes.
Yes, I will sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord!