Yesterday I was in the middle of my normal morning routine… shower, clothes, brushing teeth, flossing (eh, who am I kidding… I floss, like, twice a year). Anyway, the TODAY show was on, as usual. And I hear a little knock on the door and Gavin walks in, “Daddy, can you tie my shoes?” Which is another part of my normal routine, even though we bought those shoes with the intention of teaching him how to tie them himself. I tried a few times but I never could remember the stupid rhyme past the bunny ear part. I know he’s supposed to go through a hole at some point but I blanked on the rest and haven’t found the motivation to try again. Oh well, I’m sure he’ll figure it out by the time he’s 20. Or maybe he could just commit to a life of Velcro shoes. Some of them are quite stylish. Anyway, back to the story, I’m squatting down on the floor helping him with the laces when I hear “…and this beautiful 9 year old girl was shot and killed.” It was a news story about the tragedy in Arizona. I reached for the remote and turned it off but it was too late, I knew he had heard it and I knew what was coming next. I heard Gavin’s little four-year-old voice saying, “A 9 year old girl got KILLED!” So, I looked him in the eye, put my hand on his shoulder and told him, “No, that’s not what they said. No nine year olds have been shot… ever…. In fact, no one has ever hurt any children before. You’re all invincible. Isn’t that awesome!!!” Actually, that’s not what I said, although there was a part of me that wanted to. It’s the same part of me that wants to shield his little heart from stuff like this all the time. I mean, what is a 4 year old supposed to do with heavy stuff like murder.
I struggle with this same temptation when I’m reading him stories from his Jesus Storybook Bible (Which is amazing! If you have kids, buy this! Unless those kids are teenagers, at which point it may be a little awkward). Even with the creative, kid-friendly way that the stories are told, some of those bad boys are rough. I still remember trembling, with tears in my eyes while I read to him the story about Abraham going up the mountain to sacrifice his son, Issac. And although I know how the story ends, I still wanted to skip it. Ironically, it became one Gavin’s favorite stories because there’s a picture of Abraham with a big knife. Our little dude loves some swords.
The Bible is a raw, gritty and at times disturbing book. It has sex, violence, murder, slavery, war, you name your evil… it’s in there. And as hard as that stuff is to process sometimes, it’s actually one of the things that draws me to it. It reeks of reality. All of the same evil that I see around me, I can also read about in this book. Even the good guys have all kinds of sketchy stuff in their stories. And the Bible includes all of it. It’s not cleaned-up and censored to make us more comfortable (well, the kid’s Bible kind of is… no major sex stories in the Storybook Bible, in case you were wondering). I love that about the scriptures. They give you the whole story, not just the good parts, because even the failures and the tragedies point to the character of God. How could we possibly know just how unrelenting and powerful the grace of God is unless we saw it extended to a murderous adulterer like David? How could we fathom just how far God’s compassion will reach if we couldn’t read about the reluctant prophet who was regurgitated by a whale and forced, against all his will, to extend a message of repentance and mercy to one of Israel’s most vile enemies. If all we had was happy obedience and blessing than we wouldn’t have a story that reconciled with our own experience and we wouldn’t have a story that needed a Savior. And if all we had were stable men of unwavering faith than we would never believe that God could write us in to that story as well.
But, God has not revealed himself as one who is detached or unaware of just how fallen of a place this world is or just how disturbing the human heart can be. He is fully aware and fully involved. He has his gloves off and he’s digging around in the dirt of humanity, planting seeds of hope that will one day spring into a reborn world. One that reflects his beauty and glory as it was meant to in the beginning.
So, back to my original story. I could have distracted Gavin or lied to him. But instead, I sat down with him on my knee and told him that it was true. And that sometimes people do things that hurt other people and this is part of how our world has been ruined by sin. And that this is why we need a hero to rescue us. And God sent Jesus, His own Son, to be that hero. This is not the first time he has heard this. It is a regular part of how we parent. We want to show our kids the gospel in everything. I can’t ultimately shield him from the horrors of this world because they are real and unavoidable. What I can do is expose him to these things in ways (and yes, if possible, age-appropriate ways) that allow me to help him process them and show him how they point us to back to God and his story of redemption.