Not so very long ago, we had just finished a sumptuous meal from the ever so famous Andhra eatery, Andhra Bhavan, here in New Delhi. It was the weekend and was so crowded near the gate. We stumbled on a very dreary looking, tall man dressed in a robe and sash with unkempt hair reaching his shoulders and doped up. Remembered looking at him and feeling quite disgusted. Few steps away my son says, “Mama… wait a minuted…I think I just saw Jesus!” I was mortified to say the least to know that the image of Jesus Christ conjured up in his little mind was linked to this ungodly looking man! Oh no!
I’m glad to have made a virtue of this opportunity to communicate who Jesus is not. I said quite emphatically, “This is not Jesus… He can never be so untidy and shabby. This man looks more like a man that disobeys the commands of Jesus. And by the way, Jesus is not on earth, he is in heaven now and will come back to the earth one day.” I would have explained more but for his age – he’s is only 3 years old.
I was aware about good illustrated bible story books much earlier and had made sure to have only those, BUT for a few board books. And that was impressional enough! It then struck me that he, with very little eagerness listen to bible stories read from books. However, he would listen with zeal and participation to stories read directly from the bible or simply narrated. I guess, I’m just presuming, that the pictures from books must evoke images that he was not fond of! It also occurred to me that it was not just the long hair (which is not true about the appearance of Jesus) but the dress of those days, which was true, that interfered with his perception of Jesus and the stories from the bible. Anyway the bible was give to man without illustrations, so why not let his mind directly meet the stories from the bible without much interference from pictures. I had gleaned this truth from Ms. Mason and narrated a lot of bible stories albeit not followed it regimentally and consistently.
“Away with books, and ‘reading to’–for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. (CM V5, p 216)” she recommended learning few stories and telling it to them instead!
That does not mean I will never read bible stories from illustrated books ever!! But for now, for Nathan, I have decided to stave off biblical story books for a while and will narrate parables and old testament stories instead! Let his imagination conjure up his own images FIRST, and get acquainted with and love the stories. Incidentally, he loves me reading straight from the KJV every morning.. he actually enjoys that!
This episode set me thinking how essential is my part in developing my son’s perception of Jesus Christ so that he will desire God and learn to love Him. I really want Nathan’s initial perception of God to be that of omnipotent, holy, pure, logical – the qualities that drew me to GOD!! It just dawned on me that how will all these facets unfold in his life will primarily depend on me. I vaguely knew this fact (I guess all moms know that) but didn’t think of strategically and in a more conscientious way, with prayer, teaching and watching for opportunities to reveal those things about God. Steven does a lot of that, but Nathan spending most of his time with me, I want to brace myself to make good use of opportunities that can so very easily slip my way. This is my top prayer request that I will be endowed with special wisdom to seize the opportunities in the day to impart truth, thus shaping his perception! What a privilege and what a responsibility!