Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Explaining God

I feel weak and foolish in my attempts to teach my children about God. I hesitate, not wanting to oversimplify, to cheapen the truth, yet wondering how much a three year old can grasp of the interaction between us and God. How do I describe someone he can't see, but Who is always here? "Where's Jesus?" he asks. "He's here with us. He's everywhere." Does that melt into meaninglessness in his mind? "God made us, He made everything." Is that also a comment he shrugs off, because he can't see God, or sense Him with any of his senses? Does he understand that we're talking to the King of the Universe when we pray with him before bed? Or does it strike him as a mere recounting of our day, and other words he doesn't understand.

I know in time his understanding will broaden, and I think it's important to begin to teach him now, but I really am concerned that these phrases that are over his head...he'll just form a habit of tuning them out...not trying to understand.

Like I did. I'd read the stories printed on the Sunday School bulletins, but skip over the verses at the end. I'd read the stories printed by Christian children's publishers, but skip the morals at the end. I even felt a little guilty, knowing that was supposed to be the most important part, but the truth was, I'd heard it all before and it bored me.

I suppose there's no way to totally avoid that behavior. And I think the truest and best antidote is to keep our love for God as much an action as possible. Not just holding off the opening of gifts until we've read the Christmas story, but finding ways to give gifts of ourselves to needy people. Putting our faith into action as much as possible, to stir up the questions and make them want to know why we do what we do, and how God has called us to live so differently.

I want Green Bean and Peanut Butter to know that the reason they must treat each other with kindness, gentleness, and respect is because that's what makes God happy. But I don't want them to equate God with a supernatural judge who watches over their actions and smiles at the good and frowns at the bad.

We began a Jesse Tree this Christmas, and once again, it feels a little over Green Bean's head (Peanut Butter doesn't even slow his spinning steps long enough to notice what we're doing, and it's certainly well beyond anything he's interested in). I attempt to simplify the stories, explain them in his words after I read them from scripture. I still feel like it's so far from anything he sees or knows that he can't be getting it very well. But he points to one of the ornaments and asks me to read about it again. So I flip to the passage and read it. He likes me to read to him from the Bible, and asks me to quite often. That's something. And now he picks up my Bible and "reads" it himself. It must sound like a bunch of gibberish when I read to him, because when he reads it his stories are just words from the world he knows. "And I ride my firetruck, and play with numbers and letters, and go over there, and my coloring books, and Peanut Butter cries, and..." On and on. Only last time he read, he added "The Lord" to his sentences. "The Lord is happy we color in our coloring books..."

I pray. And hope they both see, as they grow, a genuine love for our Creator in my own heart, and in my actions. Little by little, he'll grasp it. And the ultimate choice belongs to his own heart. Who will he serve. I will pray, and live, and do all I can, but all-knowing, all-loving God will direct his life, order the circumstances that shape his perspective, and draw him to Himself.


Charlie said...

Wow, this is wonderful, Marie. I think you're exactly right, that you will be able to draw lines between the Word and your deeds, connections that will make sense to them as they grow older.

I also believe that young children find it easier to believe in God than we give them credit for. Maybe they lack the cynicism we have? Maybe because their imaginations are better than ours?

Thanks for writing this.

DLS said...

It made me think of how you used to read your novels to me or things from CS Lewis with your best friend. Now as I read such literature I'm completely in love with it because it reminds me of you and your love for it makes me love it too. I didn't understand much of it when you read to me all those years ago. So much went over my head, but your love for it was clearly understood. I always wanted to tell you how much of an impact you had on my love for literature. I think it will be the same way with your boys and your love for our Savior.