I helped with vacation bible school for a couple of days this week. As usual, it was as much a blessing to me as it was to those I helped.
This year they've grouped the kids into various tribes instead of grouping them by ages. One of our tribal members was a little boy named Steven. Steven was a pretty typical four year old--kinetic, easily distractible, still learning the finer points of taking turns and sitting still while others are talking. Steven didn't want to listen to stories or sing songs--he wanted to jump and climb and explore. Of course.
Yesterday our memory verse was "Do not be afraid for I am with you. Do not be discouraged for I am your God." Isaiah 41:10 . It was repeated numerous times throughout the course of the morning as the older kids worked to commit it to memory so they could recite down at the end of day in front of the other "tribes". Steven seemed somewhat indifferent to this--he was too busy playing with his name tag or the belt on his costume, attempting to climb under the tables or pews, etc. But we did play one game with the goal of reinforcing the concepts in which Steven actively participated. This involved a place mat sized card with various pictures of things that people are typically fearful about--storms, being alone, the dark, bullies, spiders, etc. We used one of those plastic wind up toys (in this case chattering teeth) that hops around in circles. The teacher placed it on the mat, and then talked about whatever fear it landed on. Steven desperately wanted to play with this toy and had a hard time waiting his turn. When he did get to play with it, the little toy landed on the picture of the spider and we all talked about spiders for a minute or two.
At the end of the day, when the VBS leader, an awesome woman named Sue, asked the crowd who had memorized the memory verse, Steven's hand was one of the first that flew into the air (up to this point I had to work hard to keep him in his seat and constantly had to encourage him to participate in the singing). Sue went to all the older kids first, but Steven didn't give up. Every time she asked for another, his hand went up again. Finally she came over to him. Steven began to talk. I'm not sure if anyone else understood him because he spoke so softly and with a standard four year old lisp, but I did.
"Be not afraid when spiders come because God will protect you even when they do this . . ." And he used his small hand on the top of the pew to represent the spider creeping towards her and added very softly " because God is with you. Isaiah 41:10." And he sat back, looking very proud of himself. Sue praised him and then helped him say the whole verse correctly and then praised him again
The truth of the matter is I've been afraid of "spiders" a lot lately. The focal point is finances (never far from my mind in this household of six); I'm extremely worried about being able to afford to go back to school this fall, worried about the drought and the damage its inflicting on Missouri (we're considered the epicenter of this mess) and how it's already affecting food and gas prices, and, correspondingly, Gary's job ( milk production is down because of the heat and poor grazing so the price of milk is up and consequently so is the price of making cheese so production--employee hours--are being cut).
I've even been worrying about Sam who is spending time with my dad in Montana (have had bad dreams which have him killed by a horse, drowning a river, or being kidnapped by my Dad--all of which are ridiculous, but this tells you where my head's at). Some of this fear is a throw-back to my own adolescence when we'd go to visit him every summer and he'd pressure me to come live with him and my stepmother. He'd make disparaging comments about my Mom and how she was raising us, etc. When he'd had a few drinks he'd sometimes make veiled threats about how he could have taken us away from her if he wanted to and still could. This along with other issues (like the time he did attempt to take us away) did not leave me feeling very secure in the presence of my father. (Daddy/trust issues? Noooo not me . . . )
So when Sam called me up last week testing the waters, half-asking if he could stay, I had to remind myself that this was to be expected after the kinds of adventures he's been having. "No," I told him gently. "Your family is here, you need to come home. You can go back for a month next summer if you want to. And if you still want to live in Montana when you graduate from high school, then I'd encourage you to start making plans. I'll even help you pack. But not now." He didn't press me. I'm sure he knew the answer before he asked.
My dad called up later and told Gary that Sam had mentioned it to him to and that he'd told him, "You'll have to talk to your parents about that. I'm not getting in the middle of that discussion." He meant this to be comforting, but it's clear they talked about it and instead of encouraging the boy to go home because that's where he needs to be, he'd fed into the idea. I'm glad Dad has finally decided to be a grandfather (he almost missed it), but this is not also his second chance to be the parent he should have been. I will probably not relax completely until Sam is back here on Monday.
While I had to laugh at how Steven had re-written the verse, I was struck by how he had personalized and internalized the message. And it also occurred to me that there was a reason I could hear him when no one else could. Just maybe I've been focusing on the fear of "spiders" instead of on God's presence and the fact that he's in control. So I think I'm going to try really hard to focus on Isaiah's wisdom until these spiders crawl away. Thank God for four year olds.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Posted by Mary Paddock at 8:22 AM