My one-year-old spent most of his short life as a passive observer, carefully watching his older, bolder sister. Suddenly, he is a spitfire himself. He self-advocates by shouting, pushing, or ripping a toy out of her hands when he feels he’s been wronged. His sister is not one to back down easily, so I often find myself wrenching a toy from first one iron fist and then another. My kids’ soft, dimpled toddler hands are deceptively strong.
In my religious tradition, children have the opportunity to go through confirmation when they reach a certain age – usually, around seventh or eighth grade. My childhood church was very traditional in its approach, so for an hour and a half each week, we were instructed in a narrow conference room with tweed wallpaper, walls lined with thick-framed portraits of previous pastors.
To prove we were ready to be confirmed, we were questioned in front of the congregation in between church services. On Questioning Sunday, I stood for my first question. The pastor asked, “How does faith save?” I didn’t remember the question anywhere on our study sheets. I stammered out an answer about being saved through faith by grace given from Jesus. The pastor paused, cocked an eyebrow, and asked again, “How does faith save?” I stared at him blankly. He said, “The correct answer is ‘like a hand.’ You may sit down.”
That answer has bugged me for years. Like a hand? What does that even mean? I recently got my answer as I came across a quote from theologian Jean Taffin. In the early 1600s, he wrote,
“…even if you have only a tiny spark of true faith, you are still a child of God. No matter how small, faith grips and appropriates Jesus Christ – not halfway but fully, like a young child taking an entire apple in his little hand and holding it tightly, even though not with the strength of man.”
I love looking at faith that way: a seed, a spark, an embryo. Tiny, shaky, enough. We grasp with what we have, no matter how small, and faith saves… just like a hand.