“But I just have one more question.”
“But wait I don’t understand-”
“But, how does. . .”
Here’s the truth, when I first started out in my staff position I greatly enjoyed the interaction time with our kids. We had a decently shy group (there will always be that one kid without a shy bone in their body) that didn’t always want to get involved in the activities and they weren’t eager to answer all the lesson questions. In the last year I have watched these sweet kids grow from just a few timid answers to getting involved to having kids who ask questions during small group time when they don’t understand something.
But of course we have just a few kids who are more outgoing and kids who aren’t afraid to let me know they aren’t “tracking” with the big idea or the bible story. Slowly they’ve become so open to challenging what we tell them. But why would Abraham let Lot pick his portion of land first? If God created earth then who created God? But how? But why did Noah get to be saved and not everyone else? Why two of every animal? They ask the hard questions and the why’s that we as adults have just come to accept. Week in and week out we hear our kids asking the “why” or the “how” of almost every single bible story. I laugh because our kids always “take the high road” while answering the questions. They become experts on sharing or letting others go first until our adults admit that sometimes it is hard to want to share or let others go first. Then in a split moment the kids agree. They admit they wouldn’t want to let Lot choose first. That they would be jealous of Joseph if he were their brother. They admit that always doing the right thing doesn’t come easy.
Today, our lesson called for one super time-warped explanation of how Abraham had a son who had a son who had a son who saved Egypt. Then I had to explain that many, many, many years later his people became slaves, asked to be freed, were rejected, then plagues, freedom, the sea parts, the Egyptian army dies, the whole crew of Israelites wandering the desert, and all in the name of getting to the part in the story where Moses gains the ten commandments. All of this so we could learn the first four commandments today. Did you get all of that?
Well I had it all plotted and planned out because I like ideal worlds where plots and plans work. I should have known that telling that quick of a story would lead to us hitting a few bumps along the road. I figured I’d keep things brief and I would throw in hints here and there to help them start building this timeline in their mind without taking up too much time in our large group. (sidenote: The perk of being young and new to leading ministry is there are endless lessons to learn and relearn.)
At first things were going well and I was pumped about it all. Then things started to become more complicated. You see, our formerly shy kids suddenly wanted us to pull off this timeline road and set up camp in all of the stories I had planned for us to drive past. No leaving the biblical interstate. We had plenty of water and a full tank of my plans to get us all the way from Abraham to Moses and the commandments in 30 minutes or less. No detours. No stops. (Again. Young and new.)
Very quickly I found that our kids wanted me to slow down because they had some questions. Now I don’t know whether they asked them because they were genuinely wrestling with the weight of these stories or they just wanted to see just how much of the Bible Ms. Brooke knows. There were a few moments where I wondered if I need to purchase some heavier study materials or if I could learn the original language and get my hands on some scrolls by next week. I mean, if there was a question they could have asked then they asked it. We struggled through the idea of the sea parting (the kids seem to think the Israelites should have just gotten to work drinking all the water as the Egyptian army barreled towards them. Once we settled that they wanted to know if they needed a ladder to reach the bottom of the sea.) but once we established the wandering of the Israelites one little girl asked a simple question,
“So. . . like, what did the Israelites eat while they were wandering?”
At this point I debated shutting down all the questions because I figured we wouldn’t make it to the commandments before our parents were ready to pick up their inquisitive young ones. The parting sea was a stretch and now I have to explain that Panera bread fell from the sky like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” for 40 years. Oh boy. I weighed my possible options in my mind. I could just say that what they ate wasn’t important during our lesson and we needed to move on. We had wasted plenty of time and- no. We weren’t wasting time. Because in that moment I looked at that little girl and I realized that she wasn’t asking questions because she didn’t want us to get to the ending point for the day. She didn’t even know our final destination for this trip was to get to the stone tablets of ten commands. She just wanted to know. Because sometimes you can look around a room of kids and see the kids who genuinely want to know. Because knowing what they ate makes those crazy rebellious, distrusting Israelites just a little more real to them. Sometimes they just need to ask questions to see what else they can learn.
As I mulled over my answering options I remembered the meaning of today’s date. September 11. I thought back to this same day 15 years ago and where I was the exact moment it all happened. I was little. I didn’t really understand, but I knew it played over and over again on the television screen in every household. Planes. Big matching buildings. Screaming and crying. Smoke field streets. I remember them talking about fatalities and not knowing what that word meant. It was a time when I was left with a lot of questions. What were those big buildings? Why did planes go inside them? Why? Who? What?
On this day 15 years ago I sat and asked adults questions about an event that changed our nation. It made me immediately grateful that the questions my kids were asking today were not “Why did those people jump from those windows?” or “Are there bad men on every airplane?” Instead the questions were simple, but full of importance to them. So I gathered my thoughts and I realized that the journey I had planned for today’s lesson just wasn’t going to work for our inquisitive kids.
I answered her question and a dozen more before we got to Moses and the stone tablets. Of course we landed on the first four of the commandments before we dismissed to small group and we were just mere minutes astray. We just needed to make a few pitstops before we got to where we were going. All of the pitstops in the world are worth it to teach our kids about the Lord. To know that no matter what we have a God who- time and again- has gone before His people to provide, guide, and oversee. I don’t know where our nation is headed or our world, but I want to know that wherever it takes our kids we can rest assured they know that God has been working, plotting, planning for far longer and far better than we could ever imagine. Come crumbling devastation, freedom, or rebellion our God always remains faithful to provide, to seek, to lead. May that be something we never forget along with the lives lost 15 years ago.