I've posted before about our son Daniel's attempts to get more junk food by claiming some of it is going to Jesus, who he believes literally "lives in his heart" (and gets hungry, apparently). It seems that's just the beginning, though, as he's really been on a roll lately.
A good deal of the funny theology that happens in our house centers around the kids' mealtime prayers. We seem to go through phases where both kids insist on contributing to the dinner prayer, then for a few weeks neither of them do, and then they both do again, and get bent out of shape if you don't remember to ask and to let them go first. One night before dinner, as we all joined hands, Kyle asked who wanted to pray (to Jesus).
"Not me!" said Daniel.
"Not me!" said Eva.
"Not me!" said (the Muslim international student who lives with us) Faisal.
I see it as a good sign that Faisal can make a joke in English, especially about our different religions.
Other times, like recently, the kids are really into praying before dinner, but they have each come up with this set script that they go through every night. Daniel's goes something like:
"Dear Jesus, Thank you for this beautiful morning, and for letting us go to _____________ (insert school, church, a friend's house here). Thank you for this food that we have, and we pray that you will give us all a good night's sleep."
This, of course, is a combination of some kind of example he's heard Kyle or I say either in the morning or in the evening, but to him the time of day doesn't matter; he's just going to discuss the morning and the evening all together now at once. In addition, he sometimes continues on chronologically for another 12-24 hours by adding:
"And we pray that when we wake up, it will be another beautiful morning, and that we can go to ______________ (church, school, a friend's house)..."
Sometimes, the prayer continues to include things he wants to do or have, like:
"We pray that we wake up, it will be another beautiful morning, and that we can go to Chuck-E-Cheese, or maybe next week..."
"We pray that when we wake up, it will be another beautiful morning, and that we can have blueberry muffins for breakfast, maybe..."
"We pray that when we wake up, it will be another beautiful morning, and that we can have breakfast together... Maybe I could make you some toast with butter."
And really, it's at times like these when I open one eye and look up to see Kyle peeking at me and Faisal laughing silently, and we're all looking at each other like, "Did he just offer to make Jesus some toast?"
Last week, after Sunday school, Daniel was showing me a picture he colored depicting Mary, Martha, and Jesus. I asked him to tell me what he learned about, and he told me that they learned about when Jesus came to Mary and Martha's house for dinner one time, and how Mary just sat around talking with Jesus while Martha did all the work. He said that Martha was complaining, because she was worried she couldn't get all the food ready for all the people, and I asked Daniel, "So what did Jesus say about that?" Daniel replied, "Jesus told her, 'Don't worry, you can DO IT Martha!'"
So I guess that was a Bible lesson almost learned.
In the end, it's hard to know how to respond to all these little things. On the one hand, I feel like I have a responsibility to try to teach him the correct conclusion to Bible stories and the like. But on the other hand I respect the fact that preschoolers are incapable of abstract thinking, and that him having a sense that God will hear his prayers or that Jesus was a great encourager is enough for now.
I do pray, though, that our kids will grow up to work out their own faith, and to not believe just because that's what they feel like we want from them. I hope that they will spend their whole lives searching and learning and growing.
I've been helping facilitate the Wednesday evening kids' programming at our church recently, despite the fact that teaching large groups of small children is NOT my kind of thing. It does help me appreciate all the work people at our church do to care for and to teach our kids, though. It has also been good for me to do something I wouldn't normally volunteer for, just because it needed to be done.
I think I'm growing from it, in small ways. Last night was a fun night, where kids traded in points they've earned in participation, behavior, and verse memorization for prizes. There is one kid in my class who has repeatedly talked back to me, ignored me, and otherwise been generally defiant or difficult. Many weeks I have not looked forward to seeing him. He hasn't earned a lot of points, and so last night he didn't get very many prizes. One of the few things he got, though, was a pack of gum, and toward the end of the night he shyly hugged me and offered me a piece. I guess grace IS all around.
Lucky for me.