The following is a children’s story I wrote after listening to a friend talk about her struggle with teaching her young child about bible stories that are violent and depict an angry God. While we both want our children to learn the old testament bible stories, young children take things very literally and have yet to learn about metaphor and nuance. So how do you teach them the stories without scaring them away from God? This was my attempt at answering that for her.
JJ and the Rainbow
JJ sat in Sunday school an listened to the teacher tell the story of Noah and the arc. She told them how God’s people had been sinful and wouldn’t follow God’s laws and rules. In frustration and anger, God had decided to flood the world and start over. Except for Noah, his family, and two of every animal, everything and everyone would be destroyed.
He listened with interest when the teacher said that after it stopped raining, God promised to never destroy the world again. God put a rainbow in the sky as a sign and reminder of the promise.
JJ listened to the story with a mixture of excitement and fear. The kind of feeling you have when something is a little scary but you still want to see what is going to happen.
That night, JJ and his mama snuggled in bed before turning out the light.
“How was Sunday school this morning?” His mama asked.
JJ thought a minute and said “we learned about Noah and the flood. I’m not sure I like learning about those stories.”
His mama got the little wrinkle in-between her eyebrows when she starts to worry. “Why not?” she asked.
“Because they’re scary. I thought God loves us. Why would he kill all those people and animals? The animals didn’t do anything bad.”
JJ’s mama made a deep humm sound in her throat and snuggled him closer. “You learned about the rainbow?” she asked.
“Yes, the teacher said it was God’s promise never to destroy everything ever again.” JJ answered.
“Do you know what a promise is?” she asked JJ.
JJ thought for a minute then said, in a not so sure voice, “Does it mean not to hurt other people?”
“A promise is when you tell someone you will do something very special for them and you always do it. No matter what. For example, daddy and I promise to love you for your whole life, no matter what.”
“Why do people make promises, mama?” JJ asked.
“People make promises for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes to show someone how important they are to them. Sometimes they have made a mistake and they want to promise never to hurt that person again. Sometimes you love someone so much the love feels like it’s overflowing from your whole body and you just can’t help but promise to always love and take care of them.”
JJ liked the thought of always being taken care of. His mama seemed very smart so he asked her “Why did God promise to never send another flood?”
She thought for a minute and said “Maybe God was sorry about the animals and the people that were lost in the flood.”
JJ sat up and exclaimed “God can be sorry?!”
JJ’s mama smiled and said “God is a huge mystery. Bigger than any question we can think up. So I don’t know for sure but I do know that when we make decisions and do things when we’re mad and frustrated, afterward we can be sad about that happened. Maybe God was mad and frustrated at how the people were acting and made a decision to flood everything and then after it was all done he was sad he did that. Maybe he knew that doing things when you’re mad and angry can hurt others so he wanted to promise never to do something like that again.”
JJ knew there was a lot about the bible and God he didn’t understand but he asked his mama “So God does love us. Right? Even when we’re bad? And he won’t make it rain so much that it washes away our house?”
“Yes my sweet boy. God loves you more than the stars in the sky. And he won’t make our house wash away.”
JJ lay back in his bed and snuggled into his pillow.
He thought about what his mama said. He thought about how beautiful rainbows are and how fun it always is to see one in the sky. He thought that he liked purple best out of all the rainbow colors and wondered if he could get a purple snow cone tomorrow.
And JJ’s mama turned off the light, kissed him goodnight, and quietly left his room. She made sure to leave the door open just enough so light from the hallway night light could peek into his room. She thought about how lucky she was to be JJ’s mama and then she thought about her grocery list.