Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Workin' On A Mystery - Havin' the Kids Keep the Faith & the Wonder

Yeah, runnin down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads
Runnin' down a dream...

Runnin' Down A Dream - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

 Two different blogs by author Mike Duran sent me off on this: About Ghosts and C.S. Lewis.

I think one of the earliest hurdles in raising a child in a particular faith is skirting the thin line separating one extreme: mindless, unquestioning indoctrination; another extreme: anything-goes-figure-it-out-for-yourself-because-you're-on-your-own and the ideal (admittedly, my ideal, not necessarily yours): raising them to believe in something bigger than themselves, something that's sovereign, personal, and Providential.  

Note: For my Christian friends, yes - I'm deliberately generalizing this post.  Deal with it.  For my non-Christian friends, once again - this is just a window into our lives, nothing more.  No reason to think I'm preaching or anything like that.

Here's where we're at with Madi.  She's five.  A girl. And very, very bright.  She gets a lot of things maybe she shouldn't, she's very verbal, philosophical (like her old man), and she processes things intellectually that you wouldn't think she could.  So, we decided recently we should start educating her in what it means to be a Christian, to believe in God, the Bible, and - as Roland the Gunslinger liked to say - "the Man Jesus".  

We started - lightly - asking what she learned in Sunday School on the rides home from church, teaching her to pray (only trying to move her from "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" to something basic like: "Dear God, help Mommy feel better from her cold").

And, because Madison is ALSO like her old man in that she LOVES stories, I thought I'd make a concerted effort on Sundays to steer our nap time and bed time reading selections to Bible/Christian-oriented stories.  

It just seemed like something I SHOULD do.  Something I felt vaguely guilty for NOT doing, especially when it seemed like all the other parents in our Sunday School classes had already moved their kids on to theological and doctrinal issues even I'M fuzzy on. 

Uhm. Can we say: disaster?

So, here's a secret kids, just between you and me:  guess what I discovered about most of these "Christian" kiddie books?

They sucked.

Bad.  And Madi had no interest in them, at all.

Don't get me wrong.  The books that simply put Bible stories in graphic format: Jonah and the Whale, Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den - she dug those.  And I felt comfortable reading them to her.  But the other ones...

Can I confess something, here?

I'm really nervous when it comes to educating our kids about God.

Deathly.

Not because I don't think we should.  It's just a question of "how much" is "too much" or "not enough"?  I remember when one of her cousins of the same age one day just blurted out: 

"You can't do that, Madi! If you be bad you'll die and go to hell and burn forever!"

Okay. 

She's five.  

I see no reason why a five year old needs to hear that. Ever. 

Yeah. You can imagine my reaction to THAT one.

I think I hit the wall when one Sunday, doing what I'd come to view as chore, I pulled out a book with this wonderful title on it: Alice in BIBLELAND.

Really?

Seriously? 

I scrapped my reading plan.  I let Madi pick her books.  Most times, it's whatever she's liking at the time: Bearenstein Bears,   Dr. Seuss, this crazy alphabet Halloween book, and a lot of the old folk tales: Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Thumblina, Peter Pan, How Anansi Tricks the Lion...

And you know what? When she feels like it, she grabs a classic Bible story out of the pile.  That makes me feel so much better.  Because she's choosing it.  Not having it crammed down her throat.

My daughter loves stories.  She loves the mystery (like in the above song quote) and loves "runnin' down the dream".  I want her to love stories and myth as much I always have, to wonder at the possibilities and impossibilities of the world, and to simply dream.   I also - eventually - want her to hold fast to the faith I have, and to believe in a God that's bigger than us and this big ole' bad world and all the evil (because yeah, kids.  It's there) in it.

But....and sue me...I don't want her to lose her sense of wonder and mystery.  Because if we rob God and the universe of wonder and mystery...how can we EVER believe in the unseen?