The Brother Who Didn’t Like Soup

The charge, the judgement and the verdict

Marta (3) stood in the middle of the kitchen looking reflective. She was clearly putting together some complex thought. We waited while she assembled the strands of internal narrative and drew her conclusions. She sighed, and then delivered judgement.

“Mummy,” she announced. “I don’t like Oliver any more.”

We put on our serious expressions. Siblings squabble. This proclamation against her ten-year-old brother, therefore, did not seem too distressing. But we try to hear out their concerns and suggest ways of overcoming what, to a three-year-old can seem insurmountable relationship breakdowns. After all, big brothers can be overbearing. They can get angry when little sisters play with their stuff. They can be bossy. Books can be written – indeed they have been – on the reasons a little sister might not like her brother.

Nonetheless, we weren’t aware of any particular disputes between Marta and Oliver at that point in time, so we asked what had happened. Marta lowered her eyes and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. She seemed uneasy with what she needed to say. Finally, in hushed tones, she whispered the damning charge against her brother.

“He didn’t like the soup you made.”

Favourite foods

Marta’s accusation was, in point of fact, entirely true. Mónica had made soup the previous day. The soup in question hadn’t really been up Oliver’s street, and he had said as much. Oliver had been expected to eat his soup graciously and without complaint in a civilised manner regardless. Mónica had taken this in all her stride and, if we’re honest, completely forgotten about it by the next day. She’s very grown up like that.

But Marta couldn’t forget this slight against her mother. The depth of the betrayal cut too deep. She no longer found herself able to like her treacherous and degenerate big brother, and had come to the point that she needed to share this with us.

Of course, we did what any parent would do. We supressed the desire to laugh and tried not to let Marta see our amusement. More importantly, we assured her that what mattered about the soup was that she, Marta, had loved it. Mummy loves Marta loving her soup. Oliver enjoys other things that Mummy cooks, and Mummy loves Oliver enjoying her other cooking.

And we know that both Marta and Oliver love Mummy, whether they like particular dishes or not.

Marta was surprised, but accepted our baffling verdict without question.

Toddler tastes

God’s Toddlers have different tastes too. Some of us don’t like soup. Some of us don’t like liturgy. Some of us don’t like the song “10,000 reasons.” Some of us don’t like long expository sermons. Some of us don’t like the humour of @UnvirtousAbbey’s Twitter account.

For those of us who do love these things, God loves that we love them. God has prepared other things for his other children, and he expects us to adore our brothers and sisters whatever metaphorical cooking is their preference. Although, when it’s soup time, we might be expected to eat up graciously and without complaint in a civilised manner.

It is, after all, the same God of baffling verdicts who we adore and who cooks for us all.

© Text 2015 Paul Brownnutt

Creative Commons License

Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Soup Image © stu_spivack

Today’s post was brought to you by Romans 14:6

The gift of turtle-cake

A toddler’s cake

Marie-Antoinette famously didn’t say “Let them eat cake”; a phrase first recorded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Nobody quite knows who did say it, but it’s safe to say that whoever it was, they didn’t have in mind the cake which I received the other day.

I had gone to pick up Marta (3) from nursery. Her delight at seeing daddy, as always, lit up the world. Her smile threatened to stretch her face beyond the presumable elastic limits of her cheek-muscles. Her wild skipping threatened to throw her off balance in three directions simultaneously. And today she had something to show me.

“Daddy!” she yelled, “I made you a cake in the shape of a turtle!”

It was a cake like none I have ever seen. It was a splodge. It was made of pink play-dough. Protruding from the top were innumerable matchsticks and pipecleaners. It was inexplicable, inedible and bore no resemblance to either a turtle or a cake (unless you know any good geneticists who can cross-breed a cake with a porcupine.)

And it was completely wonderful.

Here it is.


Seldom have I been given a more heartwarming gift. Marta’s unadulterated joy and generosity as she presented it ensured that. Don’t misunderstand me. I am extremely grateful for all the gadgets and clothes and coffee mugs I have received from loving friends and family over the years. I have cherished them. I have even worn most of the ties.

But they pale into insignificance beside this splodge of pink dough topped with unidentifiable miscellany. The generous abandon with which it was presented glowed like the sun and – as so often happens with my kids – my heart melted.

My playdough splodges

“What can God actually use me for?” It’s a question I periodically ask myself in introspective moments of existential angst. If I’m honest, I’m probably doing some kind of metaphysical fishing-for-compliments, asking with the hope that God will reassure me how amazing I am at everything I do and that he really doesn’t know how he’d get anything done without me. He never does.

And that’s beside the point. I could be able to communicate his message to millions, be a natural-born leader, a concert standard pianist, have doctorates coming out of my ears and -as a result of all this combined with my fabled good looks – be overwhelmed by opportunities to change the world for God, and it would all still be beside the point. They are all great things that God can use, but it would be like bringing gadgets, clothes and coffee mugs to the God who has everything.

It is not in the excellence of the gifts that I bring to God that their value lies. It is in the generous abandon with which I give him everything I am: pink splodges, matchsticks, pipecleaners and all. This is what makes my relationship with God. This is what glows like the sun. This is what melts my father’s heart like an unattended ice-cream on a summer’s day. What he does with it is up to him.

© Text 2015 Paul Brownnutt

Creative Commons License

Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Today’s post was brought to you by Psalm 51:16-17.