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Heart Matters

Faith for the Ages

I love kids. Children, especially the youngest ones, are the epitome of innocence, kindness, grace, and wide-eyed wonder. For them, everything is new and bright and awe-inspiring. They don't do or feel anything halfway -- you can sense this in their bear hugs and in the way they can't get the words out fast enough when they're telling you about something exciting.

It saddens me to see our society work so hard to diminish their innocence and their imaginations. Far too soon children are pushed to get practical, forget their childish daydreams, and face the sometimes harsh and unforgiving reality of our adult world. This unfortunate truth became all-too-apparent to me when, while teaching a vacation Bible school lesson, I experienced the cold doubts of adult-like cynics -- encased in the sweet little bodies of preschoolers.

It was a simple lesson about Jonah and the big fish. I'd arranged my rowdy charges into a circle and, once they quieted, began telling them about Jonah's harrowing journey -- from Joppa all the way to the point where his terrified shipmates cast him overboard, leaving him at the mercy of the great fish.

"You're lying!" a small voice rang out. The accusation hung in the room, defiant and challenging. For a long moment, the only sound was the buzzing of a lone bee that had wandered in during our last outdoor break. I looked for who'd spoken. It was Michael, a generally quiet and sweet little boy.

"I would never lie to you, Michael," I said, gathering my wits. "Why would you think that?"

"Jonah couldn't really have been swallowed by a big fish and still been alive!" His eyes were angry, his tone demanding. The other preschoolers gazed at me, questioning. I could see the doubt filling their minds.

I confess; I was dumbstruck. Though preschoolers' concrete-thinking minds don't yet grasp abstract concepts, it's actually abstract faith and trust they rely on to maneuver their way through the world. But here in the middle of the no-holds-barred fun of VBS, these kids were experiencing a faith challenge. Their faith that I was telling the truth, their faith that the Bible itself is true -- suddenly it all hung in the balance.

I swallowed hard and dove in.

"In a way you're right, Michael," I said. "Most people swallowed by a big fish wouldn't survive."

"I knew it!" he announced, triumphant.

The other children looked at me with alarm and dismay.

"But because Jonah did live," I hurried on, "we know that God touched his life."

I went on to explain that God is so powerful he can make amazing things happen -- things we call miracles. I finished by saying, "So if God wanted Jonah to live, then it could happen. It was a miracle. Sometimes God's miracles are so big that we can't even understand them. But the Bible tells us to have faith and believe because God is strong enough to do anything."

I held my breath, wondering what the kids were thinking. Slowly, one by one, those little furrowed brows unwrinkled. Finally, even Michael's face softened.

"So God can do anything?" he asked.

"Yes, Michael," I said. "God can do anything."

It's their unquestioning faith and trust that makes children different from us. And yet when these precious little ones experience challenges to their steadfast faith, ironically, that's where we step in to shore up their hearts and minds, and remind them of Jesus' steadfast love.

Jordan Hardy is a VBS and Sunday school volunteer and freelance writer in Bayfield, Colorado.

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