Nourishing my children’s faith has not always been easy, but at times it has been a lot of fun! When my wife and I were figuring out ways to help our then 6-year-old daughter to pay attention during our after-dinner bible reading, we gave up on trying to get her to sit still. Instead, we invited her to act out the story as we read it. Yes, we also had our parts. It must have been around Holy Week, because one of the stories we acted out was Jesus’ trial before Pilate. As my daughter fumbled her way into make-shift costumes and gave us a dramatic re-enactment, we began to experience family bible reading on a whole new level. Instead of a frustrating experience, it became a joyful time of connection with each other and God.
God is the Creator of all things, the greatest artist. You can see God's creative mind in all the things he made. From single-cell organisms to the most complex creatures of land, sea, and air, God seemed to have a lot of creative fun in making the world and everything in it. As God’s image bearers, we are his creative apprentices. As we stand in awe of his handiwork, we are inspired to create too. As we nurture a sense of imagination and creativity in our children, we are getting back to what it means to imitate God.
When taking my daughter on walks when she was a toddler, not only did we move rather slowly down the sidewalk, but we also had to stop every 15 seconds to look at something interesting. One time, I was a little ways ahead of her and she yelled, “Daddy, daddy, look!” She had crouched down, pointing at something on the sidewalk. She looked up at me and yelled in all excitement, “An ant!” Our kids don’t need to be taught how to slow down and take notice of the fascinating facets of God’s world, but we might. As parents, we are used to a fast paced schedule that often limits opportunities to stand in awe of God’s creative work. What if we took a lesson from our children and began pointing out all the amazing things we see around us. Asking questions like, “I wonder what kind of tree that is in front of the house?” Or “I wonder what kinds of birds we can see in our yard?” As we get curious about God’s world, maybe we will begin to be more curious about the spiritual world as well.
One of the best ways that I know how to stretch my imagination is to play with my kids. They are constantly imagining things! Just this week, my daughter asked me to imagine what it would be like if I were her younger brother. Let’s just say, throughout the game, I found out what’s like to have a bossy older sister! But imagination doesn’t stop with play acting. We can sing, make music, draw, paint, do chalk drawings, and so much more to engage with our kids on the imaginative level. As we do so, we might be surprised at the many conversations that arise about God as we practice being his creative apprentices.
Next time you read a bible story with your kids, consider how the biblical characters might have felt and how we might feel in their shoes. What did it feel like when David was on the run from Saul? How did Mary feel when she was asked to bear the Son of God? What did Paul think when he lost his sight, but was found by Jesus? Using our imagination helps us link the biblical stories to today and see how God is active in our lives behind the scenes. It is also a creative link to work toward a better future: where the leaves of the trees are for healing and all the races bring their gifts to God's city.
God has gifted us with imagination and creativity and using those gifts helps us get to know the heart of our creative God. It gives us spiritual imagination to see how God is working in our lives today and building a better future for when God's kingdom is fully established.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra