Skip to main content

Jennifer Grant’s thoughtful and playfully philosophical new children’s book opens with an illustration of a young girl in pigtails stretched out on a brightly flowering field. She looks curious and perplexed—but not necessarily unhappy. “God is hard to explain,” she matter-of-factly tells the reader. “I’ve tried asking grown-ups to explain God, but they aren’t very good at it.”

What If I Can’t Explain God? is this inquisitive girl’s story of trying to gather evidence that helps her put understanding God into words. She asks questions, overhears conversations, and witnesses actions that shape her understanding of God. Illustrator Hsulynn Pang’s vivid, lushly detailed style gives the settings she inhabits a tactile feel—from interior surroundings such as a busy living room to a seaside bridge above leaping dolphins and other outdoor spaces.

Understandably, the girl often feels frustrated as her search for clear answers about God only rustles up more questions. And yet there is also a warmth—even a joy—to her discoveries and comparisons. The limits of her understanding can be so unsatisfying—but they can reveal the mysterious richness of life, too. God might not be visible to her eyes, yet he can feel as close to her as her cat or the crayon in her hand. Her reference points and comparisons are firmly grounded in everyday interactions and experiences. She admits that so many things aren’t explainable either: the tickling effect of fizzy drinks, her parents knowing her so intimately right at birth, or people speaking different languages to say the same thing. And what exactly, she wonders, is the sun (a color … a feeling … light)?

Pondering the complexity of God can potentially be unsettling at any age, and for some children thinking about heavy spiritual questions might be an isolating experience. This pensive protagonist, however, stays connected to others as well as the natural world as she describes the difficulty of explaining God. She isn’t dismissed or ignored or patronized by her loved ones or alone in the unknown. This supportiveness makes her observations all the more poignant. Even if the very word “Trinity” is baffling to her, for example, she can ponder God through the lens of her relationships with people she cares about and relates to in various ways (and who, she notices, use different terms and names for each other, depending on context).

By the end of the book, she is still deliberating and wondering—but she is less troubled by ambiguity. “I wonder if God is—all at the same time—an artist who makes beautiful things, an invisible feeling of love, and a friend who likes spending time with me,” she says.

What If I Can’t Explain God? is a delicate, warm-hearted, and realistic portrayal of a young mind puzzling over God while also finding comfort in his wide, bewildering love.(Beaming Books)

We Are Counting on You

The Banner is more than a magazine; it’s a ministry that impacts lives and connects us all. Your gift helps provide this important denominational gathering space for every person and family in the CRC.

Give Now