Funny things can happen when you try to show God to children. Sometimes it’s better just to be quiet and let them show God to you!
It happened again on Sunday. For the Children’s Sermon, I shared David Shannon’s fabulous book, David Gets In Trouble, which begins, “When David gets in trouble, he always says . . . ‘NO! It’s not my fault! I didn’t mean to! It was an accident!” As I read the story, the children watched David get into trouble on every page, always with an excuse at the ready. He pulls the cat’s tail and says, “But she likes it!” He goes to school without his pants and says, “But I forgot!” Finally we reach the end, when David bites a big hunk out of a freshly frosted cake. With crumbs all over his face, he says, “No, it wasn’t me.” We turn the page and there is David again, sitting up in his bed, calling out in the dark in anguish, “Yes, it was me!” And on the next page, “I’m sorry!” The last page shows him tucked back into bed, his head on his pillow, smiling as his mother’s hand rests gently on his head. “I love you, Mom.”
“Was that God’s hand?” a child whispered. I didn’t think much about it because I had already started to talk to the children about why I had shared the book: that none of us are all good or all bad, that we all have gifts and struggles that we bring to each other and to God, and what better place to bring them than to church where Jesus can show us the Way, God can forgive us and friends can support us. I was trying to show all of this to them, show God to them.
But after I sat back in my seat on the platform and the choir began to sing, I heard the question again in my head. “Was that God’s hand?”
No, it was the mother’s hand, I had said inside my head, without really thinking. But was that right? Maybe the child had something there. Maybe I missed the whole point, but the child had caught it. Maybe the child was showing God to me, that when we show forgiveness to our children, to our friends and strangers, to anyone, we’re letting God live and breathe through us, through our eyes and our hearts and our hands. Maybe it was God’s hand on David’s head, wrapped in the skin, in the body, in the stirring soul of his momma.
And then after worship, my young friend Kylie brought me this.
And there is Jesus, walking on the water in nice big flotation-friendly shoes, tied neatly with bows. And there beside him, served up on a curly blue wave, lifted high so we can see, is a boat, because even though we make mistakes and are constantly saying we’re sorry and even though we can’t trust him enough or have enough faith to walk beside him, he wants us with him, nonetheless. So he’s brought a boat, a life raft, for us. For people like you and me and David Who Seems to Always Get In Trouble. God will sail away with you wherever you go.
Thank you, Kylie! Thank you, whispering child! You are ministers to me.