Passing the field where last year’s Easter egg hunt took place, my four-year-old daughter said, “Next year we’re going to have an Easter egg hunt again and I will go.” I asked her what Easter meant. “Honey, we haven’t had it for a while.” Yes, but what does Easter celebrate? “Eggs and candy.” I sigh. Has she not been listening? One of her favorite bedtime stories from her children’s Bible is the empty tomb story. I explain again, “Easter means Jesus is alive. Jesus rose from the grave.” I ask another question, “What does Christmas celebrate?” Silence. I sigh again.
Raising children to understand matters of the faith is a road of reiteration and reminders. It’s a long road, one foot in front of the other, one hand on the side of the mountain to keep from slipping. Occasionally the right answer seeps out and our hope sparks to life, only to be dulled when the next day, confusion and creative theology persist. Jesus must have felt the same way with his disciples. Even when he came right out and said in plain words, “the Son of Man must suffer and die”, his disciples didn’t get it, and this right after they proclaimed him the Christ.
We think we get it now. We’ve read the Bible for years. We are the teachers, our children the disciples. In reality, on this long road of faith we’re only standing a short distance ahead of our children. Sure, we’ve grown up into abstract-thinking adults who can comprehend the deep message of the Gospel. We know the Sunday school answers. However, for us finite beings, the knowledge of the Lord is infinite and the long road prevails until, as Paul writes, “we see clearly face to face.”
Subtle lessons of character catch us off guard. When I got married I realized how selfish and independent and controlling I was. After struggling through that, I checked it off my list as character learned. And I forgot. Then I had a child, and suddenly I realized I was more selfish than I thought I was at first. It’s a sweaty job, character building.
When we have that proper perspective, that the journey continues up to eternity, this character building seems more manageable. We can buckle down for the long hike, settle into endurance mode, and grow alongside our children. All that reiterating and reminding actually strengthens our own hearts. Whereas our children glean the basics as we read them Bible stories, we capture the subtle. Fresh nuances plough deep into the forgotten places of our hearts, the hidden hurts, the proud routines that run our lives. Lessons of faith are learned more than once.