“It’s just confusing,” she said. I waited another minute as she fidgeted with her pink ribbon headband. As force of habit, she twirled the ribbon and then chewed on a chipped blue nail polished thumb. Not usually the careful thinker of the class, I almost wasn’t ready for the question for which she was trying to find the words.
“Which part is confusing?” I asked. I assumed it was an unfamiliar little detail of the story that she had heard for the first time this morning. This particular Sunday school class had grown up together hearing, playing, learning, and singing about the resurrection story of Jesus year after year. Even this naturally antsy little girl knew the basics of the plot: the crucifixion, the tomb, the Marys, the angel. So, I was preparing myself for the odd question that may shoot us down another tangent.
We had just finished talking about a tomb, its purpose and the role it played in the story of Jesus, because a sealed chamber of death is not something that our fourth graders experience everyday. Kids from the other end of the table chimed in with facts they remembered from school about Ancient Egypt, the tombs of the kings, the mummies, the treasures buried in the pyramids, the embalming process with spices and “seasonings” (according to them). A few children recalled the many gods of ancient Egypt, of the sun, the wind, and of the underworld. Our discussion quickly became various stories about their world and our creation. My job now was to gently wrangle the conversation back to focus on our text of scripture. And I almost missed this little girl’s most incredible insight.
“Well, when we come to church, I hear that these things happened.” She brushed her hand across the Bible which lay open on the table. “But when I’m at school, they teach us about other gods and they don’t even talk about this Jesus stuff.”
I sat there for a moment too long, marveling at the complexity of truth escaping from these 10-year-old lips.
“Yes, you are absolutely, one-hundred percent right. That is super-confusing.”
Children learn about everything in the world by the story that is told. Adults grow and mature according to the story which they have built upon since they were unable to talk. All of us begin and end immersed in a storyline, following a narrative, chugging along the track with less control than we would like to think. You will certainly sail a different course if you live in the story of a flat world, rather than following the madness of a voyage beyond the horizon. The story we know will pattern our steps. And it deeply matters.
The battle, then, is not fought today where the different paths diverge. The struggle is not reconciled now where the conflicting stories happen to clash. The “happily ever after” is a direct result of the “once upon a time”. The problem, the solution, is rooted in the Storyteller.
So it is rightly confusing when we ask our children to live their lives as a faithful follower of Christ when they have been immersed in the story of many gods. It is nonsense to expect our children to grow up professing the historic Christian faith when all they have been taught is that the Bible just makes sad people feel better. It is strange that we wonder why our kids don’t believe the story of their deadly sin nor trust in a Savior when we have repeatedly told them a tale of independent self-reliance. The problem, the solution, is rooted in the Storyteller. And it deeply matters.
It is no small thing to change someone’s story. But the story of Truth, beginning and end, first and last, that will never change. Whether our children grow up to know it or not, His word of creation, forgiveness on account of Christ, and life everlasting continues. God promises His story will endure, even beyond our horizon.