Friday, October 4, 2013

The Faith Of A Child

I’ve taken a laid-back approach to my kids’ spiritual education so far, letting them lead by questions and observations.

They do go to Sunday School and do their share of Old Testament Bible story worksheets and crafts, and I tell stories about Jesus and parables at bedtime, so they’re not totally bereft of any God knowledge.  But we don’t push them to pray or do devotions or that kind of thing. 

Part of the reason for my approach is that I have a hard time finding religious materials that I like…I’ve looked at many children’s Bibles and it just bugs me so much that Jesus is white.  I’m no historian, but people, Jesus was not a whiter-than-white man.  WASPs weren’t created yet.  I can’t buy something designed for kids that depicts a white Jesus. 

Also, clichés and spiritual oversimplifications are pet peeves of mine.  Many religious children’s materials boil things down to such a degree that they become at best, warm and fluffy sentimentality, and at worst, inaccurate and misleading. 

So, we keep things simple in our own way.  And yet, my kids have an amazingly pure and inspiring faith. 

Eden occasionally prays at bedtime, and boldly includes herself in her list of people she loves:  “Dear God, thank you for mama, and dada, and Isaac, and me.” 

Last week, she held her hands out about a foot wide and said, “This is how much I love you.”  Then she held her hands out as wide as she could and said, “and this is how much I love God.”  She’s got her loves ordered in a way that would make Aquinas and C.S. Lewis proud. 

Last night, our conversation question at dinner was:  “When you think of God, how do you picture him?” 

Eden said, “He has a white jacket on, with a blue thing tied around him.”  I’m thinking, darn, it’s the old flannelgraph Sunday School Jesus.  But she went on, staring off into the middle distance, “I can’t really describe the rest.”  “Does he have a head?”  I prompted.  “What does his face look like?”  She replied, “It’s just…I can’t really describe it…it’s real God.” 

And while I have no way of knowing what she is picturing, I swear that her imaginings of God are more real God than mine, and than most any adult. 

And then it was Isaac’s turn, so I repeated the question to him and reminded Eden that we let Isaac talk for himself and we don’t interrupt during conversation questions.  “Isaac, when you think of God, how do you picture him?”  Isaac said, “A lion.” 

Goosebumps, people, I got goosebumps.  We haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia yet; he hasn’t heard of The Lion of Judah.  But what does my boy picture God as?  A lion, the king of all beasts. 

I’ve heard lots of opinions and interpretations about what Jesus meant when he admonished his hearers to have faith like a child.  Some people say it means having a simple, trusting faith and not asking questions or doubting.  (I never liked that interpretation.)  Some people focus on the utter dependence of children and say we need to have that dependence on God.  Some say it means we need to submit ourselves to the spiritual authorities in our lives. 

I don’t know what it means.  I like elements of most of those interpretations.  And I recognize that what I like is irrelevant to what it actually means. 

But in watching my children, I see a delight in God that I am missing.  Eden truly seems to LOVE God, as she flings her arms out wide to show how much.  Honestly, it’s hard for me to access those emotions related to God.  It seems to come naturally to her. 

Isaac has translated some central characteristics of God -- power, rawness, bigness -- into an image that he can relate to.  On his own. 

My children's faith is bold, and heart-felt, and pure.  I have a lot to learn from them. 


Sara said...

A lion! Awesome. Just awesome.

Daniel Heuberger said...

Hey, I made a comment on your March 4, 2013 post before my wife informed me that it was March 4, 2013....yeah, see my wife likes to open lots of little internet windows on my screen so when I sit down at "my" :-) computer...I just browse through what she's been up to and, well, anyway...thanks for your posts are quite a creative and good writer. And yes, I did enjoy your Jesus post from today too. One thing I've enjoyed is sometimes just reading the Bible (tiny text, impossible for kids to turn pages, big and floppy) with my kids when I'm having my "personal" (I'm tempted to call it "quiet" but it's often filled with kids wanting to snuggle or just getting up asking for drink, breakfast, "wipe my ...") time in the Word. It might be a little hard to understand, but I'm pretty sure they're listening and I use names for pro-nouns. Anyway, thanks for sharing.