Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, we take time to actually study our Bible. Not a lot, but some. And well… since the oldest student in our course of study is four years old, we take a pretty light-hearted approach.
I am not trained as a teacher, especially not for small children. And the bulk of the discipleship I bring consists of routine prayers, songs, and reading toddler/little kid Bible story books (and occasionally a movie such as Prince of Egypt). The payoff seems to be mostly in the routines. My kids are learning to recite The Lord’s Prayer, to sing Jesus Loves Me and Amazing Grace. I can’t help but think they would have more Bible knowledge and exposure and it would all be more age-appropriate if we were in Sunday school at church, but with the pandemic, we have been homeschooling and home-churching. So, I hope God is working on these little lives through me.
My kids know the names Adam and Eve. They don’t know the story of Creation. Not really. But they recognize the names of several of the main featured characters in the Old Testament, and of course we talk to Jesus several times a day. But I quiz them sometimes and get an idea of how much seems to stick.
This has me thinking of what I learned, how I learned it, and when I learned it (at their age(s)). I think of little grannies teaching in nurseries at church, of flannel boards, of songs – many I can’t remember anymore, but which I can find on the internet. I think about my “level of understanding” in those old days, and the importance church had to me. Somehow it seems like I should be aiming at the experience I had, but in the end I neither know how to do that nor have the equipment. And anyway, I don’t know that it would be as helpful for my kids as it would make me feel good about their discipleship.
Every now and again, I find myself trying to explore depth of theology with the kids that lose their interest. It’s hard to know just how much I should stress deep thoughts and how much I should just tell fun stories about shepherd boys and giants, about a lion’s den and a prophet, or about a big fish swallowing a preacher. When I was in the first grade, a little older than my kids are now, I remember listening to my dad preach to adults. I remember being with him and listening to other preachers. I remember some of those old sermons. And I also remember quizzing a few other first graders on some of these matters way back then and determining that I was unique for listening as I did.
No doubt lots of good information and theology went right over my head. I don’t think I understood that all of these stories fit into a grand metanarrative. For all I knew, St. Paul and Jonah could have been friends, maybe next door neighbors. It didn’t occur to me for many years that they did not live at the same time or that St. Paul might have studied about Jonah in his own Bible studies. There was a strange mix, then, of doctrine, theology, spiritual formation, entertainment, and all that which didn’t make a lot of sense in some grand scheme other than it was all very important to the people who were very important to me. I valued it, but could not explain why.
I’m about there again, now too, only this time with the passing on of this faith. I have all this soup to share. I have broken little people eager to eat it, yet I am not a dietician who can skillfully prepare and then feed.
Except with the grace of God.
And so we revisit the stories A LOT.
Did I say “routine” before?
And we often start at the beginning and work our way forward through the stories. By now, my kids have heard so much about Adam and Eve repeatedly that I am almost bored with it.
And we look at the story books together, and there they are. Adam and Eve. Naked. Always their private parts covered by the bushes (in the children’s illustrations) – the very stuff they tried to hide themselves with when they sinned and God confronted them.
Yet, my kids are far more interested in noticing the buffalo, the butterfly, the rabbit and fawn, the ladybug pictured there in the scene featuring Adam and Eve. We see many of these same creatures on the next page where the story of Noah appears. So we get to revisit all of that again there too.
But then one day I pointed out that Adam and Eve are naked, and suddenly my little kids are giving their nakedness attention. I almost felt a little dirty talking about this with my adopted/foster kids of very young age.
How did those grannies address this when I was in the church nursery or the very youngest Bible classes almost 50 years ago? The Sexual Revolution was in full swing in those days outside our church house doors, but the prudish, post-Victorian reaction inside was also alive and well. I had no concept of that level of thought at the time. But, I am sure I learned early that Adam and Eve were naked. I am sure that fascinated me.
I remember a certain uncle in my family, a well-to-do relative with a fine home in another state. He was a devout Christian man too. And we didn’t visit this uncle often, but when we did (maybe once a year), it always was a treat, as I recall. I mention him because in his fine home, on his coffee table in his parlor, he kept a book full of pictures – reproduced paintings mostly, I think. I don’t recall the title, but I am sure its topic had to do with the American West back in frontier days. And there was one painting featured in the book picturing a scene with a Native American wearing only war paint.
The picture did not show a full frontal depiction of the man, but his butt was clearly visible.
No bushes, like the Adam and Eve pictures in story books or flannel boards. No Jesus-on-a-cross with-a-loin-cloth pictures.
We saw booty.
A man standing out in a prairie, presumably hunting a buffalo or about to sneak up on a battle, and doing so in the nude.
Wow! What a concept!
I don’t remember clearly now all my thoughts about that, but I am certain that it captivated my young imagination. I am sure that shortly, if not immediately, I applied my experience with that painting in that book to my thoughts about Adam and Eve. By the time I was in public school, the phrase “where the sun don’t shine” was thoroughly complicated for me. The idea of BEING IN THE GARDEN NAKED seemed ideal yet weird.
I didn’t want to take my clothes off. I was way more modest than that. In fact, I got a little scared at the idea, and couldn’t entertain it long. But it still called to me somehow.
I never ironed that out.
I moved on to other things, but that dissidence in my cognition and in my emotions, though rather minor in the big scheme of things, never has been ironed out.
And here I am talking about Adam and Eve with my little kids.
I kinda freaked, to be honest.
They seemed interested, and I felt like I was talking about matters too holy for us to handle.
So, I immediately told my kids, “These are the naked people of the Bible.” (In Texas the proper pronunciation is not NAKED with a long A sound, but NEKED with a short e sound.) As soon as those words came out, I told my kids, “Now… if you ever see naked people out back in the bushes behind the house, call NINE-ONE-ONE!”
They didn’t laugh. They are only 2, 3, and 4 years old. I laughed nervously for them.
But now they plainly see that Adam and Eve are the naked people of the Bible. And in fact, my kids are apt to ask me to read to them “the story about the naked people of the Bible.”
I’m glad that is how they think of Adam and Eve. That nakedness is really, really important.
Why am I writing about this on the blog?
Perhaps it’s just cathartic, if that is even a thing.
But, there seems to be a new depth here for me.
This too happens when you move from the role of student to teacher; in nearly any subject, just the change in roles – even with the same old curriculum – opens up new depths of meaning.
I am not advocating for nudist churches here. I will stop short of that.
Let me repeat that, because I think when I get down in this rabbit hole, some reader will forget I said that. So, here it is again: I AM NOT ADVOCATING FOR NUDIST CHURCHES HERE!
(Did you get that?)
But you do realize, (Don’t you?), that in the beginning, waaaaay back when everything God created was still “GOOD” that the people were naked… right???
You were made to be naked and vulnerable with God and one another. Nothing to hide. No fear and no shame. And in THAT condition, it’s not YOU the rest of us actually see anyway.
God in whose image you were made!
And there is work to do in that world, alright, but it’s work that does not involve “sweat of the brow.”
Do not worry about what you will eat or wear, says Jesus, but seek first the Kingdom of God.
Have you ever really considered that?
Yeah… THAT is the ideal. That is THE MARK, which when missed is sin.
Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, and they tried to hide from God. They made coverings for their nakedness from the bushes all those Bible story books hide them behind so my kids won’t actually see God when they look at the pictures. But God gave them animal skins to cover with instead.
I ask my kids, “Where do the animal skins come from?”
We look at the picture again and talk about the buffalo, the fawn, the rabbit and all those creatures who are now tasked with giving up so very much in so deep a sacrifice to hide the private parts of the Adam and the Eve. That seems like a steep price to pay for eating from the wrong menu, but that’s what God requires.
Is God just being mean and arbitrary?
And then, of course, as Christians, we see that we “put on Christ” and in a sense wear him – hoping that he is seen in us.
So… what does all of this say about nudity? What does it say about vulnerability, integrity, honesty and the like? What does it say about “privacy” (a hot topic in today’s world where medical records, finances, security cameras, iPhones, and internet connections are concerned). What does it say about commerce in general, about bank accounts, retirement accounts, building bigger barns and greed?
The naked people of the Bible have nothing to hide until they sin.
How might I get my little kids to consider any of this stuff?
How might I get you to consider it?