“That’s NOT true!” she exclaimed indignantly at the dinner table. “They CAN learn about God!” Topic of discussion; whether toddler and two year old children’s ministry was babysitting or a deeper opportunity. Our daughter has a strong opinion about this.
My perceptions and former understandings of what children can know about God and others have been completely wrecked by a five year old. MY five year old.
I used to think it was our job as parents and teachers to tell our kiddos about the history and hope of Jesus so that when they grew older it would be there. Little drops in the proverbial bucket of faith. But now I know that was incredibly faulty and allowed only a shred of the real power and beauty of the Spirit. Thankfully Selah is much stronger than the box I was allowing her to be in.
Didn’t Jesus himself say let the little children come to him and that the Kingdom of God belonged to them? Didn’t Jesus himself say that the Kingdom of God is here, now? Not when my children turn ten. Not at some magical moment of adulthood on their eighteenth birthday. But in the here. In the now. I’ve known this. I know this. But it feels like I’m only just learning it.
We’re taking a new approach in our home. Instead of “raising the next generation” we’re living it now. We’re looking for the innate strengths of our children and speaking it over them so they begin to recognize these giftings too. Instead of asking How was your day? or Did you have fun? we’re learning to ask more specific questions. What’s one thing that was hard for you today? What did you do about it? What’s one thing that gave you joy today? What did you do about it? When did you hear God’s voice?
That last question sounds a little out there to be asking a five year old, even to me. But do I believe that Selah only gets to access dialogue with God at 6th grade youth camp or freshman year of college? No. It’s the magic and mystery of the Spirit that she can be in communion with God now. Her parameters of faith are far less guarded than my adult ones. So, at school drop-off it’s a kiss and some sunscreen and a reminder to be on the look out for someone God asks her to be kind to today and an invitation to listen when God is requiring her to be courageous. Sometimes we check in at the end of the day and there is nothing, or an I don’t know, or a blank stare, or a cranky, tired comment. But sometimes there are stories. Stories of writing a prayer for a classmate who she wants to know Jesus because she can tell that this little girl’s life is hard. Stories of having her feelings hurt that a friend chose another classmate as a partner but how she forgave quickly because she could tell that chosen partner was scared and needed that friend more.
These are God’s stories in her life and I tell her. It means that at five years old, Selah has been given her own little communities of influence; her kindergarten class and our neighborhood. It means that at five year old, Selah pushes me beyond my evangelical comfort zone. I want to shush it sometimes, keep it on the down-low, not get labeled as “that family” because I know we are so much more real than peoples’ perceptions and past hurts by Christians.
I’m telling her to listen for God and live courageously, accordingly. But this five year old of mine? She just lives and shows me. Because of her, I believe in the power of the Spirit living in children and their influence on their own sphere of impact. And I’m in awe. And I’m terrified. And I, myself, pray for courage and listen more intently for the God-voice beckoning me forth.