Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tough Stories II

What if . . .

What if I focus on being that child staring up at my father standing over me raising his knife? When I was little, I never would have considered that story from that angle and I was a very imaginative child. There was no reason for me to think like that. The grown-ups around me wouldn't have imagined that scenario either. But what of the child who has seen his father like that? In the stillness of pondering the story, one child can take one trail, another child can take a different trail. God knows. They have different experiences, different needs. God can bring His story to each of them individually in ways they can handle. They won't both interact with the story (or with God) the same way. They may discover different sides of God but God is the same. God is there. God is faithful. God will provide.

God's Word will accomplish what He intends it to accomplish which leaves me wanting to stand back and let the story of scripture be the primary speaker free to do whatever the Spirit of God wants to do with individuals, even children. I'm trying to learn that I don't have to comment on everything. I don't have to explain everything. I don't have to have an answer for everything. Does that make me less a teacher?

I do need to know what the Word says and what it doesn't say - the details and the spaces - even if I refrain from forcing people to see through my eyes. There is a time to correct someone's understanding - if they're wrong about what the scriptures say or what they don't say otherwise we can end up in the worst kind of mess . . . but we need to let the details and spaces be what they are.

I think correcting wrong-thinking because someone thinks the Bible says something it doesn't or doesn't think something it does is different from a child's developmental perceptions. The sprout in the ground isn't "not a crocus" it's just not mature. It's still growing. A child's understanding is like that. Should I squash it or pull it up because it's not full grown? If I recognize poison ivy, let's pull it. If I don't know, I'd best let it grow 'til I know for sure.

What of the child who has seen his father, knife raised, ready to kill - a child who faces hard realities? I may never face those realities. None of the children I know may ever face those realities. We don't have to go there in our group discussions but what if a child initiates? What if he asks? God gives you the words you need when you need them. At the same time meditating on the Word regularly, chewing it prayerfully, interacting with Him constantly as you go through life gives you wisdom that flows from a deeper place (still from His Holy Spirit) - something that doesn't just fly off the top of your head when you're desperate and need a quick answer. It's also ok to say, "That's a really good question. I don't know the answer. Let's pray and think about that."

Wrestling with God changes us but sometimes the wrestling just brings us back to the simplest (but not simplistic) of truths. In that story, "God was there." "God provided." "We don't know all the answers."

What of that child who needs more than simple answers? Is there something in this story for him? Is there something in scripture for him? The story of Joseph - sold a slave, Naaman's slave girl, Daniel in exile? Did you ever think about those children in those situations or how they got there to begin with and the realities that went with it? Scripture doesn't give us the details but chances are they are the same hard cold details that children experience in abusive or oppressive situations today - maybe worse. If we knew all the details we would know that they aren't sterile stories. But God chose not to give us those details.

We don't want those details for children. Not in story, not in life. We would never condone treating children like that. No one rescued the children in these stories. Yet these children are examples to us. They give us hope. God was with those children.God came through for them. God provided. Those children were faithful to God (and it appears that they respected their captors). God used those children in powerful ways not just to stand strong and survive, not just to affect the people around them, but their lives and stories carry God's story to nations and generations. It would be interesting to revisit those stories and see what happened to the peoples responsible for taking those children captive. It's a scary story. Not only the real circumstances those children were in but what God did. Most of us have no idea how incredibly fearsome and awesome He is.

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