Come, children, and listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
- Psalm 34.11
"In speaking with children...I have sensed that an extrapolation from a single fragment of the whole is the most invigorating experience I can share with them...The brightest children, it has often struck me, are fascinated by metaphor...
- Barry Lopez, Crossing Open Ground
My daughters have been involved this week in a Vacation Bible School field test. One of the aspects of the company I work for is the production of such curriculum. Essentially, the theme has been "the wild God" - the God who is unpredictable, untameable, uncontainable, and a few other words that begin with "un." The mantra that has been spoken each day has been, essentially, "He's not safe, but he's good" - the phrase C.S. Lewis put in the mouth of little Lucy as she described the mighty Aslan.
Snow White was the first of many Disney films to have its premiere engagement at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. At the end of the film's initial engagement there, all the velvet seat upholstery had to be replaced. It seems that young children were so frightened by the sequence of Snow White lost in the forest that they wet their pants.
There is a part of me that wishes my company would now have to replace huge tracts of carpet in the building because kids wet their pants all week as stories were told of Elijah and Daniel and Gideon and their interactions with this "wild God." I did notice one little kid the other day who grabbed his whacker and said, "I gotta pee" but I think it was because he drank too much blue juice at snack time. I'm afraid if frightened kids wet their pants all week, there would be major editing of the curriculum before it went to press; we would view that result as an indication that something was "wrong."
It was raining as we gathered yesterday morning, so everyone signed in their kids "inside." The usual arrangement is to gather outside with your age appropriate group, but yesterday it was too wet, too cold, too dangerous (lightning, you know).
I wonder if the children can sense our hypocrisy? Our fear? That we, the adults, lead them in songs about an uncontainable God, yet we, the adults, hold fast to the moorings of "God will not act inconsistent with scripture." That we, the adults, craft chants that speak of the unpredictable nature of God, while we, the adults, pause and wonder what's "wrong" when God is not blessing our jobs, families, or our nation. That we, the adults, announce through smiles and spiritual aerobics that God is untameable, while we, the adults, unamimously prefer a good God who is safe; an Aslan with Liam Neeson's sonorous voice.
Today's the last day of the field test. We'll wrap it up with a big ice cream party. Pure wildness, huh? I guess there's always the chance that some of the ice cream will sit out too long and some kid'll eat it and it'll do a number on his or her stomach and they'll crap their pants. I won't predict that happening, but if it did, someone would no doubt exclaim, "Oh, my goodness!" which is really a tame way to say, "Oh, my God!" But don't worry. If that does happen, we'll rush him inside and clean up the metaphor.