“YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT!” she said as she climbed over my purse and into her car seat at carpool line. “Leprechauns are MESSY! You won’t believe what they did to our room while we were on the playground!”
“Really?” I said, and my four year old took over, chattering all the way home about the leprechaun footprints she and her friends discovered and examined with magnifying glasses, along with crackers scattered on the floor, paint brushes, curiously clean, dumped in a baby bed in the home living center, and books on the shelf in the reading center, every single one turned upside down.
I glanced in the rear view mirror at her as she gushed on, eyes wide, hands flitting about. My girl was completely enchanted.
Why do leprechauns and elves get all the fun?
Don’t think I’m pixie hating. I’m not. I’m always after me lucky charms! I do have something to say, though.
I LOVE how children are so ready and able to slip into a mystery. They do the hokey pokey and PUT THEIR WHOLE SELVES IN! Their imaginations aren’t dulled like ours. Theirs aren’t tamed yet- their imaginations quiver in idle gear, breathing and throbbing, waiting to pounce on an idea, a thought or a story, and stretch it out until they can wrap it around themselves, until they’re completely lost in it! Until we ring the dinner bell or say, “Okay, that’s enough.”
Why do we folks in church so often ignore this gift?
People often fear putting God and imagination in the same sentence, maybe because we worry that folks will think we’re saying that God is part of our imagination. But isn’t God? It doesn’t mean God isn’t true. God is the MOST TRUE of anything that exists. But most people don’t hear God’s audible voice. We must imagine what God is saying to us through what happens in our lives. Since we can’t see God, we must use our imaginations to understand God, to hear the truth in all our sacred true stories, to imagine ourselves in them as well, so that we can understand the stories more fully. Children can help us do that by reminding us how fun it is to imagine and to play.
This past Sunday, my church experienced a real treat. During the sermon, our pastor, Dr. Jim Dant shared a story about one of our third graders. Without her parents knowing, Blake had set up a camera in her kitchen and videoed herself in her bathrobe performing a service of communion, complete with bread and juice. She loves communion so much that she did this for fun, playing it out for the camera, breaking the bread, pouring the juice, saying words and prayers of her own, just like we do in big church. Her mom had texted him the video and he found it truly beautiful. So after the sermon, when it was time for communion, Jim had Blake come stand beside him and help. She broke the bread, she held the cup, and at the end she asked the congregation Jim’s usual question, “Has everyone been fed?”
Oh yes, Blake. How you fed us!
If there was ever a question about whether we should let the children near the holy acts and rituals and practices of our faith, this answers it for me. When we only encourage imagination to flourish with leprechauns and elves on the shelf, we miss out on helping our children enter into the greatest mystery of all! To stretch it and wrap it around themselves until they’re lost (and found!) in God. And we miss out on opportunities for them to teach us too.
So bring on the bread and juice for all! Really. If your church has open communion and you’re sitting on the fence as to whether to let your child go ahead and take part, even though they’re not baptized, and you ask my opinion? I say go ahead. I made my older two wait, and truthfully, part of it was to bribe them into being baptized. Did I really want their baptisms to be based on a bribe? Communion is just as special to my younger child. He has never felt left out of the mystery, of the feeling of being included in this beautiful way to worship God. I respect that others do things differently, but I’m happy that we’ve made this choice.
And speaking of baptism, let them get in the baptismal tub and see how it feels! (No water needed.) Or why not fill up the bathroom sink and let Barbie baptize Ken? (If Ken wants to, that is. No forced baptisms here.) The more the children play out and draw out and sing out their faith, the more it grows.
Same goes for us. Bread and wine, anyone? My friend Tigist has drawn us a holy feast.
It’s magically (and truly) delicious.
Love and blessings to you!