Or everything I wish adults knew I teach to children
One incredibly hard day at the children’s hospital when I was a chaplain intern, I was with a family who had just lost two children. The remaining child would start to cry and his father would tell him that superheroes didn’t cry. They were a Christian family so in a quiet moment I got down next to the boy and whispered, “You know, Superheroes may not cry, but you know who did? Jesus cried, and he’s better than superheroes.“
Fast forward almost five years and now I pastor a church, and each Wednesday night I teach the children. Sometimes there’s just one child and sometimes there’s more, but they’re smart and curious and ask all the great questions adults have learned not to ask. Today a child in the community passed away, so we took a break from the order of stories we had been reading together to talk about Jesus and Lazarus and our feelings.
We talked about how the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus cried,” and that he cried because his friend died. We talked about how God can make good things happen even after bad things have happened and that that’s called redemption. I asked them what kind of gifts God gives — good or bad — and without hesitation they all said ‘good.’ I asked if when someone gets hurt or someone we love passes away does that mean that God is punishing them, and they quickly answered ‘no.’
We drew our feelings and discussed how we could talk to God when we are feeling angry, sad, happy, or scared. And they know intrinsically that God can handle them being mad. God can handle them asking questions or being scared. They even told me that God is sad when they’re sad.
And I hope and pray that they don’t grow out of this faith, this understanding. That no one tells them not to cry or that God is punishing them when they grieve. I pray they don’t grow out of the mystery that they hold onto so well. I pray that they always know that God can handle their feelings and their questions, that God will always be big enough.
And I hope and pray that we (and I) have the courage and curiosity to keep learning from them. That not every question has an answer, but every question can be asked.
We close each week in prayer and one child will start, and we’ll all join in. I love hearing them pray for ‘big’ things and ‘little’ things, but all their big things — sick family members and dry days for crawdad hunting. They pray for each other and they pray for me, and they end the prayer as if it’s all one word, and-all-God’s-children’say-amen.
If I do one thing in ministry, I hope and pray that is that every child (and adult) believes that no emotion or question is too much for God, and that Jesus cried. And all God’s Children said amen.