When I was little, I struggled with math. Hoping to strengthen my math skills, my mother offered me a book for every multiplication table I memorized. I remember it still-- for learning my nines, I received Charlotte’s Web. How I loved that book. I adored simple Wilbur and wept for Charlotte and imagined the connections real-world farm animals might have, if only we too could hear. Losing myself in the story was a joy and an adventure that suited me well. I learned about the world, about emotions, and about other people in other times living lives that seemed exotic and new.
I devoured books and have those stories sealed up within me still, for it is in the story that we connect. God has his own story, the story of everything he made and the people he loves with costly love. And he has invited us into his big story to discover his love and see how he is at work in this world. In the Bible, God reveals a masterful drama filled with adventure and emotion that sweeps us in and guides us into the experience.
When my children were born, I could not wait to share with them the tales of my youth. They were very young the first time I opened my yellowed, childhood copy of Charlotte’s Web and began to share that story. They still smile and giggle at the memory, not because the story was funny, but because when it came to the end of the book, I could not continue to read. Still, as an adult, the final chapter brings tears to my eyes. When it came time to share it and read it out loud, I called my husband to read it instead while I say nearby with a tissue, dabbing at my damp eyes.
Helping our children connect to story and fostering a love of reading in them can be as simple as sharing something that is important to you. Likewise, our passion for God's story should overflow to others. As we read about God's grace reaching out to us in our sin, it should overwhelm us. God's love is just that amazing. As we connect our children to God's story, they learn that stories matter and that they can connect emotionally. Stories expose something in us that we may not otherwise find and it is a gift.
Years after I first met Charlotte, I read something that affected me far more deeply. The love of reading that had been fostered in me empowered me to learn about who God was. I was a teen when I first held a Bible in my hands and turned the petal-thin pages to reveal the story inside. When I learned that this story was true, my life was forever changed. Finding our way into God's truth begins in our homes as we connect to God's story of redemptive love. It happens when we pull our babies close and share God's drama. A baby was born in a manger. It happens when we encourage our children to connect to the written word. Discovering how God chose to dwell among us and bear our burdens. It happens as we overflow with joy at God's story of love. God died in our place to draw us close. There are tears to share together over God's triumph over death and hell for us. God's sacrificial love is woven throughout his great story.
That love of reading opens up minds to beauty and truth and wisdom that has been set down by men and women through the centuries. And it opens the door for them to encounter God in the way he reaches out to them--through his own Storybook.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra