I think it all started with a new bulletin board in the church
nursery. It showed a likeness of Jesus holding out his hands. My
son Joseph, then 3, wanted to know who this man was. He seemed to
be satisfied with the short and sweet answer "that's Jesus."
A few days later, Joseph said, "Mommy, when I grow up, I'm going
to be Jesus and hold your hand and wear a dress."
When I stopped worrying about his choice of wardrobe, I decided it
was a wonderful avocation, especially since he wanted to hold my
His older brother, Charles, had a different view of things. He was
afraid to stand too close to his brother for fear of lightning
striking him when it came down from the heavens. Of course, Charles
didn't remember that when he was 3, he asked me to have a baby
brother so we could name him Jesus.
A week later, I found Joseph putting little dots on the palm of
each hand with a marker. When I asked what he was doing, he
replied, "I'm putting holes in my hands like Jesus."
Well, I was Joseph's Sunday school teacher, and I knew we hadn't
gotten into the details of the crucifixion with the 3-and-under
bunch. So we had a talk about how Jesus did have holes in his
hands, and he died, but he came back to life again, and that's why
we have Easter. I thought that was a pretty good cut-and-dried
So after that if you asked Joseph what he wanted to be when he
grew up, he would spout, "When I get big, I'm going to be Jesus and
hold Mommy's hand and wear a dress and have holes in my hands and
die and come back to life again on Easter and see all my
Charles, of course, was still a little worried and wanted to know
if it was okay for Joseph to be saying things like that.
It was fun to have people ask Joseph what he wanted to be when he
grew up. The pastor tried, unsuccessfully, to get Joseph to say he
wanted to be like Jesus when he grew up. Nope, he was going to be
Our church would never again have to worry about having too little
food at a potluck because Joseph could perform a little loaves and
fishes action. No water into wine, though...we are Methodists,
I don't think I can say during my life that I've ever been quite
so adamant about my Christianity as Joseph was about being Jesus.
But isn't that really how God wants us to be? During his earthly
ministry, Jesus urged us to be like little children; Christians are
even called "children of God." In God's eyes, children are the
epitome of faith and trust.
Too often in my life, I have tried to be an "adult" and tell God
just how things were going to be-I thought I knew what was best for
me, no matter how contrary my plan was to his. God let me go on my
little journeys until I realized that I had to reach back to that
child inside, let Jesus take my hand, and ask him to lead me.
Joseph, at 8 years old, no longer says he wants to be Jesus when
he grows up. As a matter of fact, he changes his grown-up
aspirations frequently these days. How I loved listening to his
little speech when he was 3-I asked him to repeat it over and over
again because I really did want him to be Jesus when he grew up.
And I still want to be like Joseph when I grow up.
Emily Imsand is a director of children's ministries in