Tucking Jackson into bed tonight was especially precious. Not only because we continue to work on the art of snuggling, but because he asked me, “Mom, can you tell me a story?” and I replied, “Yes. I want to tell you a story about God.” I began the creation story describing something I can’t comprehend myself: nothingness. I tried to describe the emptiness that existed before God made the world. And if Jack was a little bit older, I would have parked there for a while because not only was I trying to imagine the unimaginable, I was trying to do so through the lens of a child. It was overpowering. Jack currently has no concept of outer space other than knowing, “Hey! There’s the moon!” And my understanding isn’t much greater than his. So even though the depth of my own fascination was swelling as I spoke to him, I summed it up quite simply: “God decided to make the world because it was a very good place, including oceans, mountains, animals, and even people.”
It didn’t take me long to arrive at the Noah’s Ark list of animals that God put on the Earth: lions, cheetahs, elephants, bears, whales, turtles…etc. Jackson has three interests right now: dinosaurs, knights/dragons/castles (they go together), and animals. His Schleich collection is beyond extensive for a not-even-three year old.
Animals entertain and enthrall him. He’s either playing with an animal or pretending to be one. It’s crazy that I get the privilege of using one of his greatest interests to teach him about the grandeur and creativity of God. And this very lesson has me overwhelmed and astonished every time we discuss the subject. When we stop to explain things to a child, we, too, should become absolutely amazed that the same God that designed the butterfly also designed us, except with much greater intentions in mind! Yes, Jackson, it is that amazing.
But, within the creation story is something very real and difficult for a mama to share with her baby boy. I told him that people decided to disobey, and so that’s why bad things happen. It’s so simple and ever so true. There’s a reason why his knights need swords and why a princess needs to be rescued: evil is on the prowl. He learns quite graphically from Disney movies that bad guys are in the world, and it’s up to the good guys to defeat them. We watch Lion King as Scar–the liar and betrayer–is dropped from a rock to his death, and we watch Jafar in Aladdin get consumed with jealousy, crave power, abuse that power, and even use fear by turning into a giant snake. I have no intention of over-exposing my son to the reality of the world, but it’s becoming more and more important to me (and even more so to Josh) for Jackson to understand that things in this world aren’t right. Dragons aren’t tame; deception is real; people get sick; marriages fall apart sometimes, strangers can be dangerous. And, really, it’s all our (humans’) fault because life is infected by the consequence of wanting to be like the God who made us in the first place.
For some reason, I never thought I’d have a boy, and I never thought I’d be thinking of my own child as a future defender of evil. In fact, that normally would sound really dramatic or extreme to me, not applicable to everyday life. I didn’t like Christians who even used words like “evil” and “warfare” because they felt so condemning and heavy. Looking back, I mostly didn’t like it because I felt intimidated and inconvenienced. But, I can’t even tuck my child in bed telling the creation story without the awareness that evil has an agenda. I can’t watch the Repunzel story “Tangled” without explaining that the bad woman is selfish with horrible intentions for others, and there are people like her. I can’t play “knights” with Jack without pretending there’s a dragon or a bad guy coming to hurt us.
As my faith in Jesus grows stronger, and as I (finally) wholly submit to the authority of Scripture…I can’t help but be aware of the similarities between the stories I tell Jackson about heroes, victory, defeat, etc. and the greater story that has been going on since creation. I know we’re all fighting and managing the evil in our lives, even if it’s just breaking up sibling fights or trying to maintain self-control around the fridge, with alcohol, or with the checkbook. Or for many of us, our battles are much more difficult, like divorce, betrayal, denial, cancer. The world, as it is, is just not right. I’m so glad God is giving me the courage to raise my son hopefully and prayerfully prepared as a warrior, aware of the bigger fight, and strong enough to take it on.
Yes, Jack, even though the world was once perfect, people disobeyed. And yes, we need to work very hard to keep bad guys away. No, Jack. The world is not the way God wanted it to be. But don’t worry, sweetheart. It won’t always be that way. You’ll see…