Raising Little Story-Bearers
From a young age, we are drawn into story. We dress up as princesses and superheroes living inside our magical and futuristic worlds. Pipe cleaners make crowns and bath towels capes. As parents, long grown up, we marvel at the creativity of our children. Amused and mystified, we watch them. They didn’t learn this from us. Typically, we aren’t the ones walking around the house or grocery store with magic wands and tights. The creative nature of a child reveals itself through imagination and play—in short—story.
I recently witnessed this with my little boy. He’s three, going on Evil Knievel. Yesterday, I glanced into his playroom to see him watching one of my husband’s motorcycle movies. I’ll set the scene for you.
He’s enthralled, standing in front of the screen and mouth hanging open. I can’t help myself; I pause to see how long this laser focus might last. I don’t have to wait long. In a flash, he hops on his little Strider bike and glides across the floor. Suddenly, he stops, pulls up on the handlebars and shouts, “I’m riding a wheelwee!” I try my best not to laugh out loud and disturb this poignant, action-packed moment for either of us. “What is a wheelwee?” you ask. That would be a “wheelie” for any of you non-bike-enthusiasts.
After another zippy glide around the room, I suppose he decides it’s time to imitate what he sees on the screen. To my surprise, instead of tumbling headfirst into the cars and trucks he lined up on the floor, he gingerly gets off his bike, one careful leg at a time, sprawls out on the floor with little limbs sprawled every which way, and yells at the top of his voice, “I wrecked!”
What in the world would compel this little guy to “fall” and “wreck” in the middle of his playroom with no supposed onlookers? Have you ever asked yourself why your little guy is jumping off the arm of the couch as if he’s launching himself out of a plane? Why is your little girl’s stuffed animal in the “hospital” wearing a tutu on its head? The simple and compelling truth? Story.
The God-given gift of story in children begs the question: What would it look like if children understood that they are a part of the greatest story ever told—God’s story?
Bearing His Story
Young and old, story captures our imaginations and presents us with the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. The Bible says in Genesis 1:27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Because each of us is made in the image of the Great Storyteller, we have this longing deep within us to be connected to God’s Story.
Children are the embodiment of this deep, intrinsic longing for story. They yearn to belong, explore, adventure, and be part of greatness. They go to epic lengths to be active participants in a story that lands them center-stage—smack in the middle of the action, excitement, and drama. Why? Because even as small children, we are hardwired for story.
God’s Story began before the world existed, but can be evidenced through the incredible creation story itself. From nothing, God created something—everything, in fact—and as His creation, we are made in His image. We bear His likeness, and more, we bear His Story. It is imperative to remember that the Story we are all part of as God’s creation is the movement of His people (us) towards redemption and reconciliation with Him. That is the Story—His great plan.
And He wrote the Story beautifully, right from birth. Children are precious, not merely because they are miniature humans, but because they were uniquely created by God, in the image of God, on purpose and for a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 emphatically states that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
When this great truth is imparted at an early age, children have the opportunity to be Story-bearers of creation, forgiveness, love, and kindness in ways that only a child can. Imagine the impact just one little story could have on others. One pregnant, unmarried, girl named Mary … one precious baby named Jesus … who grows up to live and die and live again and change the world forever.
Living His Story
So what happens to us? As adults we manage roughly 327 roles and responsibilities at once. We get lazy, and frankly, tired. We get enough real-life “story” throughout our day-to-day. Jammed printers, gossip at work, drippy faucets and diapers, traffic, phone calls to return, empty refrigerators, and piles of bills and laundry. To escape, we watch movies, and occasionally pick up a book when we can keep our eyes open at night.
But when do we really come alive? When was the last time you got utterly lost in what you were doing? Answer: Doing what you love—just like kids. Maybe at age 40 that’s exploring on vacation, spending time with a close friend, talking to God, drawing or crafting, tinkering in the garage, maybe even singing in the car.
So adults, I’ll ask you a few questions. How often are you doing what you love? What would it look like if you lived more alive in God’s Story too … right in front of your children? Imagine the impact your story could have on others.
Through the maze of our roles and responsibilities as citizens, moms or dads, neighbors, sons or daughters, church members, brothers or sisters, and maybe bread-winners, we must maintain perspective on the big picture of life and pass it on to our children. As we teach our kids that they are part of God’s story, we must be crystal clear on what God’s Story is so we can communicate it simply and powerfully. Communicate the big picture along with the smaller component of how your child plays a part in God’s Story—a story that’s still very much in progress.
Keeping His Story
Let’s remember whose story we are living. Do you remember what you had for breakfast yesterday morning? Probably not. We are forgetful people by nature and all of us need reminders in our lives to keep us mindful. Joshua was told in Exodus to create “stones of remembrance” for his people so that they would not forget all of the wonders and works God had done for them. For the children within our care, it would be wise to intentionally build “moments of remembrance” into their lives on a regular basis.
Let’s make the effort to create situations that teach and remind our children that they are indeed part of God’s larger story in the world. They play an important role just as Joshua did centuries ago. Connect the stories of the Bible to their own stories. Help them see that the genealogy in the Bible is there to help us remember, and that they too are a part of it, just like Dad and Grandma and Aunt So-and-So. Remind them that we are grafted in, adopted sons and daughters of God Himself.
Keeping His story means that we as parents, educators, children’s workers, ministers, have a unique opportunity to help steer the children within our reach to come into their role, make a difference, and be a part of God’s story of love, forgiveness, and inclusion. And lest we forget ourselves, remember, this applies to us adults too. Think about it. There’s a reason Jesus told us to become like children. We, His children—young and old—are His Story-bearers.
We can choose to live and love in action. We can choose to continue to encourage our princess-superhero children to live out their stories. Or, we can stifle their creativity and God’s own story unfolding in and through them.
What will you choose today? The crown or the cape?