Do What the Tomato Says
Annika is always surprising me with her understanding and awareness of the world. She doesn't just hear things happening and being said around her, she is listening and usually totally getting it. Most of the time it just makes me laugh or put it on a Facebook status. But, recently (like since the day she was born), I have been thinking about how to talk to her about God. About Jesus. About spiritual truths. It is mostly a recent issue, but like I said, it goes a little further back than that.
Since she came into this world, I've been wondering just how I'll teach her about it.
Thing is, I didn't become a Christian until I was a teenager. When I was a little girl, church was about getting a Snickers for being the first in class to memorize the Apostle's Creed, or finally being allowed to eat a communion wafer. I learned a bit about Jesus, but I didn't really know him, and it wasn't until later in my life that more of my family came to know him too.
When I first started attending a small Baptist church as a new Christian with a Catholic background, I felt like an outsider. Like I had missed out on so much. Inevitably, there was more than just Christianity happening there, there was a whole culture that I had never been a part of. I still remember the horror I felt when I was with a church boy that I liked (on a date, even!) and he used the terms "Roman Road" and "the Invitation" in the same sentence and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about or how to respond. Or when the other teens at youth group would laugh and sing "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he...." or some other song they learned when they all attended Vacation Bible School together at six years old. I wished so much that I had grown up in that world with them.
Now though?..... Not so much. As I've gotten older, I've actually realized that the way I came to Christ is one of my greatest strengths. I have a fierce solidity in my faith, something that has never been confused or questioned or compromised by an unstable foundation. I didn't have to go through a rebellious, prodigal son phase to figure out if I could make my faith my own. Christ wasn't quite placed into my hands, I grabbed hold of him for myself in a mature, intelligent way and held on for dear life.
But now I'm the mother. Now, we are the Christian family in a Christian home who take Annika to Sunday School every week where she'll watch Veggie Tales and sing "Zacchaeus was a wee little man." And I worry - is this going to be real to her one day? Will Christ be just a smiling, white guy with soft hair on her coloring sheet? Will Noah's ark and Jonah's whale be fairy tales that she feels like she outgrows one day?
I know that if Sunday School was all she ever got, yes, she would probably build a weird, weak foundation of Christianity that would eventually have to be torn down and rebuilt when she was old enough to think for herself. (Which at the rate she is going, will be in about three years.) I pray that it will be our family and our lives that teach her the most about God, I just wonder about how to do that right.
There are some things that I DO know. I know my desire is to give her the gospel in it's purest form, not wrapped up in a cartoony, sing-song, churchy culture that will seem childish and fake one day. I don't want to water down stories like Noah's ark (get it? water down?) or the Egyptian plagues into something that they aren't. I figure if its in there and its hard to talk about, its still God-breathed and profitable for teaching so I just need to find a way to teach it right to a 2 year old.
And, also, I don't discount the tools of Christian culture and education, but I feel the most rich way to teach her about the Bible is by sitting down and just teaching her. If someone was to ever ask her, "Who taught you about the falling walls of Jericho?" I want her to say, "my Dad, when he read the Bible to me at night." or "my mom, while we cooked dinner" not, "a tomato on the television."
I do know that even more important than the things we talk about as a family will be the things we do and the life we live. The best way for the gospel to become real in her life is by watching it unfold in ours.
Still, despite all my confidence otherwise, I still feel totally out of my league when it comes to building a spiritual foundation in another human being that will affect her for the rest of her life.
When she says, "Why did Adam and Eve have to leave the garden?" I want to get that right. When she says, "What is sin?" I want to get that right. When she says, "Is Jesus in my heart?" I really want to get that right.
And these are all questions that she is asking me lately. This morning, especially. She is beginning to put pieces together, and apply what she remembers from one story or metaphor to another one. She is trying to make sense of things, and she's not even three years old yet.
Of course, no matter what, she will probably roll her eyes at one day when she comes home from college with trendy, contemporary ideas of what Christianity or parenting or church should look like. (I know. I've been there. I did that.) She will learn plenty as she grows up and sees the world through her own eyes and not just ours.
Which is why what we teach her at home has to be pure and solid enough that it can be stretched and pulled and bent to the breaking point in her life, and yet still be real.
Culture can't do that. Christ can.