One of my favorite unexpected joys of parenthood is how much I learn from reading children’s books. My older son has been fascinated with a book called Turtles and Snails (Scholastic, 1998) for some time now. I had read it to him repeatedly, with my mind elsewhere, before I came to a startling realization: snails have teeth! I had no idea.
But it is true. Snails have tiny teeth in their tiny mouths that they use to chew the leaves that make up most of their diet. The night that we read this story at bedtime and I fully realized that snails have teeth, I burst out laughing, much to my son’s delight. Here was a tiny fact, something that doesn’t change the course of my life at all but is utterly delightful. I smiled about it for the rest of the night.
As an adult, I am used to thinking that I should have much of life figured out, that I should have more answers than questions. When I was a child, my parents seemed to be inexhaustible sources of wisdom. In my experience, though—as a person in general and a parent in particular—I am constantly discovering new things and encountering questions I don’t instantly know how to answer.
The same God who created miniature teeth in the mouth of a tiny snail can bring about healing, life-giving surprises in my life, too.
Maybe that’s how it was meant to be. After all, God is the creator of questions and answers, snails and surprises. In Isaiah 43:19, God proclaims, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” I can’t know all there is to know about the natural world, or parenting, or anything else for that matter. No one can, and that is a gift.
Realizing that we are not meant to know all the answers—that only God does—can liberate us. In those places of not-knowing, which are part of being human, there is space for God to do new things, to bring healing out of hardship, to cultivate delight out of ordinary moments.
If I let it, this not-knowing can be part of my joy as a parent, a friend, a person who’s starting something new, a human being who seeks to live this life authentically. Not knowing everything means that I can be surprised in delightful ways.
The same God who created miniature teeth in the mouth of a tiny snail can bring about healing, life-giving surprises in my life, too. Even now, in this season of Easter, God is dreaming up, working on and bringing into being these unexpected delights.
Sometimes I forget this, and it all feels too heavy or too hard. Then I remember: Snails have teeth! And I smile. What other delightful things is God bringing about that I don’t yet know? In a world where snails have teeth, much is possible.