We're sitting around the dinner table the other night when one of our kids says something about someone named “Samson.” Being the engaged father I seldom am but dream of being, I quickly ask, “And who else do you know named Samson?” Our middle daughter responds, “Samson was the name of the dog in that movie.” It is said matter-of-factly, her siblings seem to agree, and the conversation moves on to something else. My girlfriend and I just look at each other. “Baby, we gotta do something.”
We are the parents who have gently, and at times forcefully, moved away from structures such as Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and those after-school-memorize-a-kazillion-verses-so-you-can-put-patches-on-your-vest programs. We haven’t abandoned our faith, given up on God, or written off sermons; well, the jury’s still out on sermons. But we have stopped to think about all the programming we grew up with. And while at the stop sign, we’ve wondered if we want our children to grow up in the same fashion. We want our children to have a vibrant faith measured by heart love for Jesus instead of head -knowledge of scripture. We want them to have the heart before the course. We’ve been in too many B-Christian subculture movies where someone could quote chapter and verse blindfolded and then turn around and do something completely opposed to what they just quoted.
But how do parents like us pass along a biblical literacy to their children without it becoming rote memorization in order to get the prize? How do we help them hide the Word in their hearts but not so well that they can't remember where they put it? How can I introduce my daughter to Samson before he was a dog?
Being the creative dad I dream of but seldom am, I'm going to try a few things. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm not wringing my hands in some chicken-little "the sky is falling and my kids don't know who Samson is" moment. Anxiety is not becoming of a believer. Our kids love "God and Jesus" - they always talk about them together like that. That's cool; I feel like God and Jesus are really pretty close. We pray at mealtimes and other moments when prayer feels right. I remember praying with one of the kids when they were constipated - "Lord, help me to go" - and it was just as natural as breathing for them. If we can't ask the Lord for help when we're blocked up, then we're really in trouble. Yet I still want them to know of Samson and David and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Of Adam and his girlfriend and Noah and his zoo. Of Nathan and the healing waters of Siloam. Of young Timothy and his upset stomach. Of Elizabeth, who got her womb rocked by jumpin' John the Baptist. Of Joseph, who did the right thing and married the girl God got pregnant. These are good folk. Friends for the journey. And then there's Jesus, the lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.
Well, John, you realize that you know all those people because you rotely memorized verses and attended VBS all those years and sat under faithful Sunday school teachers every Sunday, don't you?
Yes, I do. And I believe all those things prepared me for suchatime as this and suchakids as these. A nod to good-looking Esther seems a fitting way to sign-off.