Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lesson 19.5: Jesus Calms the Storm (and Salvation)

On Wednesday night, Ginny, the kids' midweek teacher, was out of town. She had asked us to take over and we did, although I'm not sure we accomplished what she wanted us to. At her request, we taught out of the packaged curriculum. The kids seriously didn't know what to do--they've gotten to the point where they'll play along and even have fun with our weird lessons on Sundays, but on Wednesdays...let's just say they were clamoring for their handouts (with word searches and mazes) almost immediately. Having learned from our experience teaching out of the same curriculum, we gave them the hand outs near the end of class. When we gave them out earlier, they seriously stopped paying attention.

When we went into the class, Amanda's mom was there with her. She saw us and a relieved expression flickered across her face. "I usually stay in here to help Ginny," she said. "But you guys--there are two of you-- you're ok, right?" We told her that we were, and she went to the ladies' class.
Amanda was pretty put out at her mom for leaving. "I'm wild on Wednesday nights," she told us, proudly.
"Why?" I asked.
She shrugged. "Because I've been at school all day."
"Do your teachers at school let you act up?" JC asked her.
"Yes," she said, but in a way that made me think that she was fibbing. She wasn't that much more wild on Wednesdays than on Sundays, as far as I could tell. The only major difference I saw was some serious attitude. The phrase "How rude!" spit out of her mouth frequently enough to try the patience of a saint. I wanted to tell her that my asking her to please stop fanning her six dollars and put them back in her purse was nowhere near as rude as her playing with her cash in front of everyone in the first place. I refrained, although I gave some serious thought to offing whoever keeps reruns of Full House in syndication.

I really think that kids act the way they are treated. If you treat them like dummies, they'll use that as an excuse to never do anything smart, never really try. I remember when I was very young, I overheard my mother talking with a friend (children who read, be warned, are wonderful little eavesdroppers). She was telling her friend that I was bossy. Now, in all fairness, I probably had been bossy that day. I may have been going through a phase of being especially bossy. Plus, I was a big sister; we sometimes feel the need to run the show. I don't remember the surrounding circumstances. What I remember, very specifically, was making a conscious decision that if I was going to be accused of the sin, I might as well get the fun of committing it. I know that I took every opportunity after that to be bossy and demanding. Of course, this gave my mom all the more reason to tell other people that I was, by nature, bossy, and I continued to act bossy because she kept saying that I was bossy. And on and on. Even though it became my default pattern of behavior, I definitely remembered how it started.

It wasn't until I was in college that I discovered that I'm really better at collaborating with people than at telling them what to do. Of course, I can be bossy. I can also be mean and awful and jealous and rude and conniving. Can't everyone? The important thing here is that none of those ways of being are what I truly am, nor are they what I am most of the time. How different would it have been if I had heard my mother say that I was good at making sure things got done? It's the same thing, really, as being bossy, but it's more positive. No one wants to be known as bossy, but everyone wants to be known as somebody who gets things done. That actually ended up becoming the reputation I had in college. I liked it. I never liked being bossy.

So, long story short, I think Amanda was wild because she knew adults thought that she was wild, and therefore, she thought that she could get away with it. It took a while for us to get her simmered down to her Sunday morning level (not, by any standard, a well-behaved level, but good enough). She got there, though. Nothing at all was special about Wednesday nights.

We ended up having a really interesting discussion with the kids (Amanda and Lachlan were the only ones there). We were talking about how Jesus calms a storm, and JC and I asked them if they could think of other times when God changed the laws of nature--the laws that He had designed--to help His people. Lachlan mentioned how Jesus was able to reattach the ear that Peter had sliced off of a guard. Amanda kept talking about creation things, which missed the point--I think kids their age get inundated with the Creation story, probably because it has animals in it. Creation was about making the laws, not changing them. Then JC and I argued that Jesus' death and resurrection were a case of God changing His own laws. Old Law=death (of oneself or of an animal) is the penalty for sin. New Law= a sinless person died for everyone's sin. Lachlan really seemed to get it. She was shocked to find out that, under the old law, you could get stoned to death for being awful to your parents (Leviticus 20:9). No one said the usual things about how that just wasn't fair. They were both just shocked by it.

We moved the discussion toward the concept of baptism being the gateway to salvation, representing death and rebirth. I wanted to get deeper into the symbolism of that, but I think they're pretty young for it--I don't want any of them to think they might get literally drowned when they experience a symbolic death. Maybe that's what I'll talk about with TGS next week.

Anyway, Lachlan asked a very legitimate question, one I have yet to be able to answer well, though I want to. She asked if she would go to Hell for being unbaptised, because she's a child--in our church, only adults are baptised. We gave her the standard answers: no one in the Bible was baptised as a child, you shouldn't get baptised until you really understand the nature of sin, children are protected with a special kind of grace. She seemed to get all that, but really, what does one say? I don't know the inner workings of her soul, but my educated guess is that Lachlan is not really ready for baptism. I don't think any of our kids are--and that's ok. Baptism is a life commitment. The reason our church expects people to wait until they are adults is that, although children might do things at times that are destructive, impolite, or annoying, they lack a certain kind of sin, and a certain understanding of the nature of sin. Even the brightest kids of their age lack any deep understanding about sin, and how it is about more than just actions--it's about feelings too.

(Isn't it funny, we're always having to tell each other that love is an active verb--virtue is about action as well as feeling. With sin, we have to tell each other the opposite. It's not just about action!)

I wanted to make sure that she didn't leave the class in fear for her soul. I hope I did ok. I need to come up with a better and more coherent answer for that question, because this was not the first time a child has asked it. The next day, I posted a note about salvation on the little blog we have for them.

They like the blog, by the by--they don't have the url for this one, but we have a private one for them, where we post notes on our classes, ongoing activities, and sometimes artists' renderings of the things we talked about in class.

I'm tired and still have things to do...I'll post about Sunday tomorrow, though, I promise!

No comments: