My soon to be five year old daughter has a very strict bedtime ritual. We can only deviate from it if it is really late, or we are not at home, or something like that. A key part of that ritual involves reading three books. Thankfully, they are not the same three books every night. They are just three books that we pick out from her room. There are some favorites like "Pajama Time," but lots of times they may be new books that we have checked out from the library.
Usually if I am home in time, she will let me read to her. When I am reading, we often use a book of 5 minute Bible stories as our first book. Last night she specifically asked if we could read one of those stories. We have just been working our way through the book from front to back. Usually we read the story, which has been written in a way that seems to be directed at kids that are a little bit older than she is, then talk about it afterwards. I will ask her what happened and explain to her what was going on. It is not exactly heavy theology, but we already have talked about some heavy topics like Joseph's brothers selling him to be a slave and Pharaoh deciding to kill all the baby boys.
Last night we read about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Since it is only a five minute Bible story, it left out a lot of the details (particularly all of the details about the Israelites questioning God and begging to go home), but it mentioned several of the plagues and discussed the parting of the Red Sea and Pharaoh's troops being drowned.
As I was getting towards the end of the story - I was in the part about the Red Sea - without meaning to interrupt me, my daughter looked at me and quietly said "This really is real."
It really struck me. This is a story about God turning the water red, sending frogs and flies, sending violent hailstorms, parting the Red Sea, etc. There are a lot of things in there that can be hard to believe - things that are well outside of our normal experience. Yet, something about it made my five year old reflect that this is real. It wasn't a question. She wasn't confused. She just believed.
I can bring a lot of junk to my reading of the Bible. I bring my experiences, what I have learned in school, what is going on in my life and what other people have taught me. Sometimes that can weigh down what I am reading. It can make me wonder - "can that really have happened?" It can make me look for alternate explanations. It can make me just kind of skip over some parts. My daughter's simple statement, though, really brought me back. There are several places in the Bible where Jesus addresses children and the faith of children. But, for me, last night's experience reminded me of Jesus responding to his disciples' question about "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
He [Jesus] called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:2-4 (NIV)
So, I'm going to try to learn from my daughter. I'm going to try to be better about approaching the Bible and what I read like a little child. It probably will not be easy, but it definitely will be liberating and I think it will strengthen my relationship with God.