first, a funny story from last night at work in the nursery classroom of my Sunday School… while holding an infant I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window, boots, skinny jeans, red and black flannel shirt (with ruffled collar). I flicked my hair out of my face and thought outloud: “Man! I look so good tonight! Someone should take me out.”
John looked up from the book he was reading about farm animals: “What? Did you just say–?”
With a shrug, “yes, yes I did,” and then looking down I noticed a little white residue on my sleeve, “aww, Asher!” I whined at the baby and his spit up, “it’s a dang good thing you’re cute or I’d have to be really upset.”
Over the weekend some friends and I attempted to teach two little boys (5 and 7) about the Prodigal Son or the Lost Son as some translations call it. We did this for class and I think we were all pretty excited about it.
At first the boys seemed to do really well, they listened, they seemed engaged with the story as we told it, they looked interested and happy. But teaching a parable turned out to be much harder than we expected.
When we went to drawing pictures–our attempt to create an “experiential learning experience that ministered to multiple senses”–things became a little dicey. How do you relate the story of the Prodigal to little children? It was impossible to make them understand the money issue. It was hard to help them comprehend how it would be so easy to run out of money. And it was frustrating to keep them on task. At one point, a classmate said “do you think he’d be sad to live with the pigs? I mean, have you ever dreamed of living with pigs?” to which the five year old responded:
“No. But I had a dream I was eaten by a shark.”
Somehow, our prodigal son ended up with pools and diving boards, pizza and sprite and a volcano in his backyard. It was difficult to help them relate without completely losing the essence of the story.
I think the hardest task was helping them make abstract connections. Ideas like equating the Father with God and the son with humans was a struggle. It was such a leap with no concrete stepping stones between the concepts that the kids had a hard time following.
Yet, despite all this, despite the hour and twenty minutes eventually condensed into 13 minutes and 42 seconds, despite the bizarre drawings we’ll turn in, despite the laughter over random thoguths and wild tangents we all walked away with a similar burden. We have a responsibility to teach our kids about God, about the faith, about Jesus. It may be hard, it may seem impossible at times to connect sharks with pig slops, volcanoes with whores, but we have to.
As parents, as leaders, as aunts and uncles, even nannies, we have a responsibility. I don’t just tell the girls I watch to share, I tell them that we share because God shares with us. I don’t only get excited about the presents under the tree with those children, I remind them that we give gifts because Abba gave the greatest gift of all–himself.
This is our charge, our responsibility, our privilege.
It’s one I pray that I and you and we do not shirk or lightly forget.
If we do not tell them, who will?