Our twin grandchildren, Aiden and Hannah, recently stayed over for a weekend while Mom Carissa and big sister Lily were away on retreat with the middle school church youth group.
I had almost forgotten how verbal 2-year-olds can be, though you do have to do a little interpreting when the pacifier is still in place as they speak.
They notice everything and comment or question with proper subject-verb agreement. They are great fun – exhausting – but great fun.
Listening to the twins reminded me of observations and comments from our own children and children of church friends when they were young.
One Sunday, we learned from five-ish Kyle’s Sunday school teacher that he had worn his Superman costume to church under his blue Oxford cloth shirt, khaki pants and navy blazer.
He had asked to dress himself for church and, as it was a very busy morning, we went along.
His Sunday school teacher noticed that he seemed to be having trouble walking, that his jacket and shirt were fitting tightly and restricting movement. She asked Kyle what was up.
In a still small voice, he told her he was not “Kyle” but “Clark Kent” and that he had come dressed “just in case there was trouble at church.”
Funny enough but I could not help but think that “trouble at church” might be an act of faith at some churches. You know how buttoned down God’s people try to be with all things holy: We want even God to be safe.
One Shreveport spring, Susanna, just turned 6, was helping Angie water the plants in our front flowerbeds. As the fine spray settled upon flowers and leaves, Susanna seemed caught up in the interplay of spring sunshine and tiny droplets.
Angie overheard her say, “Thank you, God, for rainbows in the hose.” Somebody was especially present to God’s presence that day.
One Sunday when Susanna was 3, one of her Sunday school teachers noticed her intently studying the fish swimming in the classroom aquarium.
When Marcella asked what she was doing, Susanna responded, “I wonder if the fish ever get frustrated? They have such a small place to swim. I wonder if they miss the ocean.” Another sermon in miniature, don’t you know?
Last month, before worship on a Sunday when I was to baptize brothers, I was in the ready room changing into my official Orvis baptismal waders when I heard angelic singing.
It was the second-grade brother of those who would be baptized, singing with purity of heart: “He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
Don’t tell me children don’t enjoy singing that speaks to their souls, even if it has been around for a long while. Brock made a difference in my approach to worship that morning. Hallelujah.
Over the years, I’ve invited the children of the church to draw their own images of Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Advent, and then turned their art into covers for the printed worship guides.
One year in Connecticut, young Stephanie submitted a line drawing of 12 mostly round faces, like you would see on stick figures.
Eleven of the faces came complete with eyes, noses and smiles. One of the faces had two eyes, a nose and a smile – like the others – but had dots like unto freckles on the face, too.
Asked by her dad for an interpretation of her drawing, she replied that she had drawn the 12 disciples, smiling and happy after Jesus’ resurrection.
Not wanting to disappoint her but wanting to be sure she understood the story, Dad reminded her that after the resurrection, without Judas, there were only 11 disciples.
To this bit of critique, the young theologian smiled and said, “Oh, I know that, Daddy. I’m the twelfth disciple. That’s me smiling with the dots on my face, happy when Jesus cured me of the measles.” Her point was well made and well taken.
Just a few years ago, early in our time in South Carolina, and in response to a similar invitation to draw for Holy Week, another young friend submitted her drawing of Jesus nailed to the cross.
Behind Jesus on the cross, she had drawn a large hand coming down as if from that sky.
When asked about her drawing and, especially, the meaning of the hand, she said, “Oh, that is the hand of God holding Jesus while he suffered for our sins. How else do you think he could stand it?”
Oh, my. Why had I not seen that sooner?
Right on, young and faith-full friends of the Lord Jesus.
Pastor of Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia.