“While today’s culture is telling our children that life is ‘all about me,’ we can direct them to think about the fact that life is really ‘all about God.’ God’s Word is basically a love story—a story of the Lover pursuing His created ones in order to have a personal relationship with each one of them.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BIG GOD STORY
At the heart of our Christian faith is a story … Unless the story is known, understood, owned, and lived, we and our children will not have Christian faith. (John H. Westerhoff)
A CHILD’S LITTLE WORLD
When I was a child, I used to love when my father told me stories at bedtime. Not just any story either. I always wanted him to tell me a story that had me as the main character. Usually my father wove in a few of my other friends (and perhaps foes), and maybe even a childhood pet as well. With these thoughts of myself as the heroine or adventurer in my father’s stories, I drifted off to sleep knowing that all was right in my little world.
As children, our world is very small. We see everything from our vantage point and how it affects us directly or indirectly. It’s only as we mature (hopefully) that we begin to see the world as much more complex, and we begin to see our role as servants addressing the needs of those around us. Therefore, one role of the Christian parent is to train our children to shift from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. Paul describes this virtue in Philippians 2:3–4 (NASB): “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Of course, this selflessness comes from knowing Jesus personally and committing our very lives to the power that is available to us from God. Yet even before our children fully understand this war within, I believe that the environment of Storytelling is a compelling opportunity to begin to shape an other-centered and God-centered worldview in their hearts.
I know that to some degree childhood is synonymous with ego-centrism. With self-absorption raging in the hearts and minds of our children, how can we help them understand that there’s a storyline much bigger than they are? How can we parent in such a way that tells The Big God Story throughout history, explains how our own story has been grafted in by grace, and describes how our children have the opportunity to be a part of that narrative as well?
A BIGGER STORY
While today’s culture is telling our children that life is “all about me,” we can direct them to think about the fact that life is really “all about God.” God’s Word is basically a love story—a story of the Lover pursuing His created ones in order to have a personal relationship with each one of them. In His story, He is the main character; He is the perfect Lover and the perfect Redeemer. Sometimes I am tempted to believe that I am the main character, that the story is really about me—because after all, I am in every scene. But that’s a lie. It’s a lie that our children are told on every TV channel, in every advertisement, and in every song. Sometimes it’s blatant and sometimes sublime, but nonetheless they are being made to believe that the greatest story ever told is happening in their obscure little world.
Can you see how dangerous Satan’s lie is? If he can get me to believe that this life is a story centered around me and my happiness, then I will see life as a series of events that allow me either to succeed or fail in this endeavor. I begin to subtly make decisions that will be to my own benefit. After all, don’t we always want the main character to be victorious in the end? We want her to succeed and be happy. Thus, my happiness becomes primary. The problem with this perspective is that life is hard and unfair sometimes. I can’t always control life, events, and other people. Then what? And even when I do manage to control people, that’s not what I or they were created for. In using them to make my life work, I harm them.
If we consistently tell our children The Big God Story and help them to see the bigger story that has been lived out for thousands of years, they will have the privilege of catching a glimpse of the wonder of it all. The wonderful mystery of who God is and how He has chosen a part for each of us to play. We can never play the role of the main character, but when we understand why we can’t, we rest in the knowledge that we were never created to do so. When this happens, we are able to worship God and not ourselves. We are free to be who we were created to be: true worshippers in every aspect of our lives!
I love how the apostle Paul says this in Romans 12:1–2 (MSG):
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating,
going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before
God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you
is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted
to your culture that you fit into it without even think- ing.
Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed
from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you,
and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you,
always dragging you down to its level of immaturity,
God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
In light of this, how can we tell His story—the story of the Bible—in a way that is meaningful and relevant to our children? We know our children are self-absorbed, and yet we also know they love the sense of story and are eager to identify with heroes in a storyline. God’s Word gives us no shortage of material that illuminates the struggle between good and evil, and certainly no shortage of heroes! We also know that they relate best to things that are concrete and visual, and to circumstances that involve their five senses.
With this in mind, let’s consider sharing the Bible’s content in the context of its original storyline. Often we tell fragmented stories of God, Jesus, or other characters in the Bible, and we do so in ways that aren’t linear. Even most children who know the stories of the Bible can’t tell you whether Abraham was born before David, or if baby Jesus was alive when baby Moses was.
Think of the little girl, who had celebrated Christmas just three months earlier, sitting in an Easter service where the pastor talked about Jesus dying for our sins. Horrified, the little girl looked at her daddy and exclaimed, “Didn’t God have any big people to die? Jesus is only a little baby!”
What happens is that our stories are told in isolation and often don’t tell the bigger story where God is central. Instead, baby Moses is the key figure one day, Noah is the key figure one day, and Jesus is merely the key figure on another occasion. But by putting each story in context of the main story, we can begin to elevate Jesus, the Redeemer, to His rightful place in the storyline.
This is an excerpt from Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony. To learn more about The Big God Story, read the Storytelling chapter. Spiritual Parenting is available everywhere books are sold.