How did you get invented?
A big question from a little girl
This exchange of letters can be found in the second volume of Letters of Note. Many thanks to all involved.
In 2011, journalist Alex Renton’s six-year-old daughter, Lulu, wrote a brief letter to God and tasked her father with ensuring that it reached the intended recipient. Unsure of how to deal with such a request, Alex, an atheist, sent copies of the letter to family members, Christian friends, the local Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Scotland, and the Scottish Catholic Church, all with varying and unsatisfactory degrees of success. It was only when he wrote to the Anglican Communion that he finally received a letter that so perfectly and gently answered his daughter’s question—her question being, “How did you get invented?” That reply, reprinted below, was written by Rowan Williams, then-Archbishop of Canterbury. Alex later recalled:
[Lulu] listened quietly as I read the Archbishop’s letter and it went down well. What worked particularly was the idea of “God’s story.”
“Well?” I asked when we reached the end. “What do you think?” She thought a little. “Well, I have very different ideas. But he has a good one.”
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers.
It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn't expected.
Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.
But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’
And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.
I know he doesn't usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf.
Lots of love from me too.