On Reading the Bible Book to Dane

The Bible that Dane likes best is a toddler edition that I bought during the Borders liquidation sale last year.

I wanted them to have one, my growing boys. I wanted them to learn to love these stories and the God that weaves them together.

It’s not a particularly great children’s Bible, but it seemed like the best option there on those scant shelves: fun with bright pictures and short sentences.

Later, I came across the Jesus Storybook Bible and loved it immediately for its words and its beauty. For how it tells the story in a way even my own scarred heart can hear. I bought one copy for myself and three for the gift closet, because I can’t think of any better present for a brand new baby and her tired, fearful new mom.

But Dane doesn’t want that one.

When he says, “I need my Bible Book,” it’s that toddler one he’s talking about, with its stripped down stories and round-nosed characters. I pull out the other one, say, “How about this one, buddy,” and he says, matter-of-factly, “No. I don’t like that one, Mom.”

*

This boy was my epiphany, my awakening. When I learned I was pregnant, I’d been in therapy for over a year, trying to work through my Mad Season. I’d been surrendering, but also hiding behind a wall of cynicism and anger.

But then, there he was, on the ultrasound monitor. A profile, a person. Ten fingers. Ten toes. A hand spread out toward me, reaching.

I knew nothing about mothering except that he was so luminous, so fragile. Suddenly, the darkness that I carried felt heavy and precarious. The cynicism dangerously sharp.

I’ve never gotten much farther on my theories and practices of mothering than what I decided in that moment: I do not want to raise my children in the long shadow of my own bitterness. I want to choose Light.

*

The thing about Dane’s 3-year-old Disequilibrium is the wild unpredictability of it. In one moment, I think my heart could burst with love and pride. He is bent over the pond, looking at frogs. He is sharing with his brother, talking baby talk at Liam’s sweet, one-year-old face.

Then, the very next minute, he is running full-tilt into the parking lot at Festival Foods. He is screaming at me that he will not take a nap, will not, will not, will not, and I am calm, less calm, screaming back. Twice this week, my husband has had to send me on emergency afternoon outings so I don’t accidentally kill somebody.

I reserved a book on Grace-Based Parenting from the library, and started reading it during the Olympic commercials. I am equal parts encouraged and defeated by the words, by the stories, by the archetypes the author presents.

He lists the categories of fear-based parents and then offers a luminescent picture of parenting out of grace. And I think, Buddy, you have forgotten what it was like at Age 3. It is not one or the other – grace or fear. It is both, back and forth, every moment.

In one moment, you remember how loved you are. You feel the warmth of the Light that you live in, and grace feels obvious and easy. But then someone dumps out the toddler potty chair, and there’s pee all over the floor, and someone is crying and someone else is yelling and that someone is probably you.

I live most days in the in between. I believe in God’s goodness, his beauty, the wild power of his love for my children. His great, soft hand hovering over their lives.

And also, I am desperately afraid that I will do it wrong: teach them the Bible wrong, introduce them to a too-small God, set them up for failure. I’m afraid that the uncertain, hypocritical way I live my faith will give them cause to run away.

*

When Dane brings me the Bible Book I am not in the mood to read to him. Liam is so far beyond the crabby threshold that he keeps falling onto the living room, and I just want them both to get sucked into SuperWhy on PBS so that I can drink one freaking cup of coffee all the way down without reheating it.

But we open it anyway, and he starts telling me, “God made the birds…and God made the trees…”

“Yes,” I murmur. “Yes, he did.”

“Look!” He says, “It’s that really bad snake!”

We read about the Lies. We read about disobeying. We turn the page to find Adam and Eve naked and hidden behind a bush.

“Oh no,” he says, looking at the picture of Adam and Eve. “They got stuck!”

And it occurs to me that this is the perfect word for it. In this stripped down Bible story with its simplified words, his eternal heart has found the most profound truth. We will both have to learn it again and again all our lives. We are always getting stuck; God is always reaching down and pulling us out.

In one moment, I am walking strong in grace moments, and then I am stuck deep down in in the fear  of it all. And either way, God is here. I am doing it right and wrong, and it’s a huge mess. And still, his love glows like is lamplight along the pathway. Leading us ever on.

26 thoughts on “On Reading the Bible Book to Dane

  1. My kids feel the same way about the Jesus Storybook Bible, and I, too, wish that was the one they were drawn to. I hear you—I think a small part of me has given up a little… I’m tired, I don’t want to ‘do it wrong.’ But thank you, Addie, for this honest reminder that they are open to the story, and so—to keep trying in some way.

  2. I am doing it right and wrong — that is it. Parenting really isn’t all that different from my personal struggles within — or really, my parenting mirrors what’s going on inside my own heart. Getting stuck, getting free, drowning in fear, living in grace. They live right next door to each other, and it’s not a journey from point A to point B.

    All that to say — yes, yes, yes. My we ever choose Light.

    (Also, Owen has no patience for the Jesus Storybook Bible, and he’s 6. Audrey loves it, though. Bring it back out in 5 years and then see.)

    1. Love this: “My parenting mirrors what’s going on inside my own heart. Getting stuck, getting free, drowning in fear, living in grace.” Such truth.

  3. I often get scared that I will mess my kids up spiritually. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’ve heard many messages reminding me of my role and the role of the Holy Spirit. I should keep them on my iphone to listen to once a week. I need to be reminded not to put more of the burden on my shoulders than should be there.

    Reggie Joiner is a family ministry leader. He’s been a big force for helping churches partner better with families, and think more strategically about birth through teenage ministries working as a team. One thing he says is that the Bible is all true and all relevant. But it is not equally relevant at all ages. It’s ok and natural and good for faith and knowledge to build. Even if you are not using the “best” children’s Bible right now, that’s ok. Because at the preschool age, you’re not so much building the knowledge as the interest. Good theology comes with time.

    “In this stripped down Bible story with its simplified words, his eternal heart has found the most profound truth.” Yes. That is awesome and perfect for a three year old.

    1. Thanks for the insights, Stephanie. This line is comforting to me: “You’re not so much building knowledge as interest.” There is a lot of freedom in that.

  4. It only takes one degree to go from calm to boiling water.. One degree. 211 degrees to 212 degrees. Our lives can be like that. One minute all is fine and the next all hell broke loose. We walk that fine line sometimes between being pushed up one degree. Thank God for friends who take the heat off at times and for God himself doing it.

  5. I’ve been there, those moments where God overwhelms you with the hugeness of it all yet you’re still there. In the pee and poo and mess of here. I understand today more than ever, a day when all I could do was mumble survival words at my two and wish the clock to tick the sunlight away.

    1. Yes. It’s very hard for me to keep a “big picture” perspective when the small picture is so messy and overwhelming and full of tantrums. (Hang in there sister. Your husband comes home today, right?)

  6. Balancing fear and grace – it’s tough. And we are so hard on ourselves sometimes. I sometimes get that panicky feeling and wonder if we are doing the faith instruction “right”. We picked up the Storybook Bible this summer and they love it, but they make connections based on the stripped down versions we have read before. When the time is right, your boys will be drawn to that one as well. I am grateful for dinner conversations and teachable moments when we see their understanding peek through. So grateful you shared your experiences.

    1. Thanks Jan. I’m hoping that eventually they grow into that Bible. And that I grow into this role. It feels so overwhelming to me right now. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. You think when you are young and raising your kids that one day when they are grown and you have adequatly screwed them up, it will be easier and you will have figured it all out. Surprise, the truth is that God is forever refining us and attempting to make us more like Him and will use whatever phase of life we are in to change us. This is a painful, wonderful, horrible, beautiful truth about our LIving God! He won’t leave us in the state we are in today. Good thing!!

    1. I can’t decide if that’s totally depressing or totally freeing. A little bit of both. 🙂

  8. I see you’ve been in my head again.

    I was just reading this, thinking – yes, me too. The spiritual crisis and the no-time-to-do-a-spiritual-crisis cos suddenly I have a baby and I want my boy to know God, and live Him, and not be afraid and angry and bitter like me. which means I have to un-bitter myself and be courageous and have faith that it will be different for him – but only good-different.

    ‘they got stuck’ – this was so beautifully told… And a real comfort, that as you say, you can hit upon truth in unexpected places. This was a real comfort to me.

    Just – yes! I feel all of this – thanks for putting it into words. It’s nice to feel someone else is on a similar journey to me at the moment.

    Thank you.

    1. I’m totally with you. I want to show them that it’s okay to be angry and frustrated with church and with God…but I also want to help them figure out how be honest with God in that place instead of hiding behind the bitterness and cynicism. It seems like such a delicate, weighty chord to strike, particularly when I’m so bad at it myself. Grace for tired mamas too. Thanks for the comment and the solidarity.

  9. We’ve had a really tough year as a family even though I don’t have preschoolers. It’s not any one person of the 10 of us still living in this house — just the mix of all of us together. I’ve been reflecting on the Grace-Based Parenting book, chapter by chapter, here: http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/search/label/Reflections%20on%20Grace%20Based%20Parenting%20Book

    Thanks for your blog — I get it through Google Reader and enjoy every post.

    1. I love that you’re blogging through the book Virgina. I’ll have to sit down and read the first couple posts. (I’m not very far yet. Maybe into chapter 3.) I think it might help me to be part of a group (however virtual) that’s “discussing” it so that I can air my frustrations and hang on to the good bits. I love the heart of what he’s saying, but I’m finding some of it to be very cut-and-dry. Parenting is SO not cut-and-dry.

      Thanks for the resource, and grace for your hard place, friend.

  10. I’m with you on the “parenting is SO not cut and dry.” It seemed that way when we started home schooling 20 years ago. “Follow this formula and thou shalt have godly children.” Pfft. So many nuances. So many variables. So many heartaches. So many joys.

    I write about spiritual disappointment and issues with churches, too, which I see is a recurrent theme on your blog. My blog for that is http://www.watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com

  11. I started reading the same book this week and felt so the same as you….. feeling equal parts encouraged and defeated by the words.

    Your post breathes life into me today…. even though you don’t know me and I don’t know you.

    My favorite lines that I will re-write in my journal and hold onto for myself:

    “It is not one or the other – grace or fear. It is both, back and forth, every moment.”

    and… “I live most days in the in between. I believe in God’s goodness, his beauty, the wild power of his love for my children. His great, soft hand hovering over their lives.

    And also, I am desperately afraid that I will do it wrong: teach them the Bible wrong, introduce them to a too-small God, set them up for failure. I’m afraid that the uncertain, hypocritical way I live my faith will give them cause to run away.”

    Hearing your fears and realizing they are a clone of my own, makes me wonder again if it’s satan’s unoriginal ploy to paralyze us. I want to live unafraid and willing to believe that what I have is enough…. and when it isn’t, that God is bigger still.

    Thanks again.

    1. Selfishly glad to know someone’s having the same struggle (particularly with that book) Jodie. That’s how I feel too — paralyzed. May we learn to parent fearlessly in the love of God.

  12. Ooooh, I hear you, I HEAR YOU! My eldest is coming up 9, my youngest is 2.5yrs, and I have days when I live in the boiling point and my stomach physically aches from the tension of trying to find grace when I really, really want to throw things and scream.
    And yet… my daughter (the nearly 9yr old) stunned me a few days ago by saying that she wants to be just like me when she grows up. Which gives me hope that I’m doing something right!
    I believe that most of us parent like this – feeling like we’re not doing it right, worrying that we’re somehow wrecking our kids, fighting the guilt and condemnation and all the shoulds and shouldn’ts. Struggling for grace and joy and just a fragment of the fruits of the Spirit. And maybe we should stop feeling like we’re the odd ones out, to feel like this.
    You know that phrase ‘in the trenches of mommyhood’? Have you ever thought about where ‘in the trenches’ comes from? The battlefields of WWI, where the mud was so deep men drowned in it, where there was mud and vicious barbed wire and bombs and gunfire and cold and death all around.
    That is what we compare being a parent to! It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. 🙂

    1. Ha! Just replace “mud” with “poop” and “vicious barbed wire” with “vicious toddler mood swings,” and you’ve just about got it!

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