She snuggles into her mom’s lap and says, “Read my fabrit story, Mommy!” Grasped in her chubby hands is the tale of Hansel and Gretal. You know–the story about a brother and sister, captured by an evil witch in a candy house, who wants to fatten them up and eat them.
It’s so interesting to me that children actually like those horrible tales–with all of their scary witches and graphic evil lurking around every corner. They love to hear stories about:
- The wolf posing as the little girl’s grandmother, whom he has just eaten…
- The giant who calls ‘fe fi fo fum’ and wants to grind the hiding boy’s bones up to make bread…
- The poisonous apple from the hating step-mother which casts a sleeping spell on the princess…
In each story, there is good and evil. And with hushed anticipation and wide eyes, our kids wait to hear whether good has once again prevailed.
It’s the same with Bible stories–only this collection is true! Kids love to hear the horrible stories of Noah’s flood, Daniel in the lions’ den, and David and Goliath. But its interesting to me that though we let our kids shudder over the fairy tales, we tend to edit out the shudder-inducing parts of the Bible stories:
- We use imagery of smiling crocodiles and rainbows, but we flip past the part about people who ignored God’s warnings, desperately trying to hold their children up above the rising tide.
- We want to tell about the cuddly lions, who gave Daniel a pillow in the night, not the hungry lions, the next morning, whose teeth tore apart the families of God’s enemies.
- We tell about the little boy with the slingshot and his smooth stones, but we stop before we get to the part about him slicing off the head of the giant who mocked God.
Yes, these are graphic, horrible images. But are they worse than a witch fattening up a boy to eat him?
Like the fairy tales, these stories talk about good and evil. But they go a step further. They give true imagery of what happens to people who mock God, ignore His warnings, and become His enemies. Ultimately they give a good picture of God.
It sounds strange to say so, but I think sometimes we, as parents, want to protect our kids from the truth about God. In our urgency to have our kids love God and follow him, we worry that the hard stories in the Bible might cause our children to get the wrong idea about God. So we flip past the parts about the drowning people and get to the part about the rainbow.
Now, I’m not saying that we should give our kids God-shaped nightmares. But I wonder… might we be giving our kids the wrong idea about God if we don’t tell them the hard parts of the Bible? Perhaps this G-rated version of God that we’ve created for our kids is what causes them to grow up, yawning about God. Maybe the images of cuddly lions rather than the images of God’s enemies being torn apart in the pit doesn’t serve our kids the way we hoped it would.
As my own kids’ childhood years dwindle, it concerns me to see how many college students are leaving the faith. Young adults seem to yawn at God, and have no fear of ignoring Him. It makes me wonder if they were raised on board books with smiling crocodiles. Perhaps we should rethink this idea of ‘protecting’ our kids from God. Shouldn’t we be more intentional about protecting them from a wrong impression about Him?
If our kids can handle fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel; if we think they’re old enough for movies about superheros who battle evil; perhaps we should also lift the ban on the more difficult parts of the Bible.
Perhaps these true stories will even become our kids ‘fabrits’, and ultimately lead them to love and honor–rather than yawn at–God.