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 hand.
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 preschool explanation.
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 friends.”
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 Jesus.
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, after all.
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 Shalimar, Florida.