This morning my 4 year old asked me to read his Children’s Bible to him, so of course I had to drop everything I was doing, which was nothing, and sit down for a story. Of course, he picked David and Goliath. Show me a 4 year old boy who doesn’t love the story of David and Goliath and I’ll show you a 4 year old boy who hasn’t heard the story of David and Goliath.
I read it for the eleventy billionth time, I used my scary giant voice, I helped him determine who was a Philistine and who was an Israelite in the illustration, and it all ended with the classic rock to the head.
“I thought David cut off Goliath’s head. Grandma Donna said he cut off his head,” Q queried when we were done. Oh that Grandma, spreading the finer details of death near and far.
“Er, yes. Well, he DID cut off Goliath’s head after he killed him, but they didn’t put that part in your kid bible,” I said.
“Why not? Why they not put it in my bible?”
“Ummmm…because kids don’t usually like that stuff,” I answered lamely.
“Yes the do!”
This whole conversation got me to thinking. First of all, I’m starting to suspect that my mother is watching too much NCSI. Secondly, I don’t think telling a four year old that someones head got cut off is a bad thing. Third(ly?), I’m shocked at myself.
I don’t allow my children to watch television commercials or listen to the radio. I think that gratuitous violence is dangerous, almost as dangerous as Katy Perry. Yet here I am, talking about decapitation with my kid.
When I was in college I took a course in Children’s Literature and we read the original version of Grimm’s Fairytales. They were gross, graphic and scary. I still do not plan on reading them to my children because trust me, they are gross…but my professor explained that children liked them because they dealt with their unspoken fears. “What if my parents die? What if I am hungry? What if a bad troll tries to eat me?”
Just because children are innocent doesn’t mean they are unafraid. I know a certain child who refuses to go into the hallway without a light because of the Monsters. He is two. He is old enough to know that there a bad things, scary things. He is small enough to feel helpless against them.
And so the old fairytales had children baking witches in ovens and ripping open wolves stomachs and worse. To face a terror is the first step to becoming brave, the cowards run.
Q asked me to drag out my Bible, the one without pictures. He asked for a battle story that wasn’t in his bible, and I told him he could draw a picture as I read it to him, unedited. He heard about God sending thunder down to confuse the Philistines, and he drew a picture of a bad guy getting hit by thunder. He heard about the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea and he drew a picture of the sea with some dead horses floating in it. Then he lost interest and asked me to teach him about octopuses and how they suction and squirt ink.
His drawings were hilarious. They made me think of art therapy and I giggled a little to think of what someone would say if they were shown his violent drawings. He was extremely proud of them, excited even. Perhaps every child needs art therapy, perhaps we are all small and traumatized by the horrific possibilities this life holds. Perhaps every infant screams because they know it’s possible that their mother won’t show up.
Are you afraid? Do you live in the midst of violence? Are you in imminent danger of losing your parents? Your head? Are you a few tragedies away from being hungry?
Yes, you are in danger. The children know it, they sense it, their mortality.
We make ourselves feel save in our fenced in back yards and our good sides of town, but they are all illusions. I don’t want to tell my children they are invincible. It would be a lie, and all children know it. Instead I want to validate their worries and show them that there is Someone bigger than monsters, Someone brighter than the darkness. I want them to know they need a Savior.
So, I read to them about battles and sin and violence. I read them the story of the human condition and they smile as they hear about a God who always wins His battles, who always helps His people. They are learning about a just God who demands blood for our sins, a loving God who sends himself to bleed for us, the final sacrifice. It’s gory. It’s true. It’s what we need, no matter how old we are.
“We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear cures another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God.”- G.K. Chesterton