I teach Sunday school for preschoolers once a month at Evanston Bible Fellowship, and today I was working with a group of adorable but particularly rambunctious kiddos, none of whom had very much focus. For the great majority of the time, the class soundtrack sounded something like this:
Me: “Please stay away from the door, Ryan. It’s okay, your mommy will be back soon. So, Jesus told his helpers to go to Jerusalem–”
Lucas: “Can we play Duck Duck Goose?
“No. Not right now. I’m reading a story–Ryan! I said no door. Please come over here. Simon, please sit up like a big boy. Thank you.”
Nathan: “Where is Jeruzalum? Is it near Chicago?”
Mikayla: “I live in Chicago!”
“Yes, we do live in Chicago, Mikayla. That’s right. And Jerusalem is aaallll the way across the world, near Africa. But turn on your listening ears right now, okay, Nathan, sweetheart? I’m trying to tell you a Bible story about Jesus. This is important. Okay, now where was I…? Oh, yeah. So, Jesus told his helpers to go to Jerusalem and bring him a donkey that–Ryan!”
I should have felt exhausted–but the joy I get from playing with them and teaching them and laughing at the cute and funny things they say just makes the word “exhausted” inappropriate. I was tired. But in a good way.
After I finished teaching and cleaning up the crayons, I went upstairs to take a seat in the pew before the sermon started. I saw my friend, Sarah, sitting there. I went over to say hello.
“You have Children’s Church?” she said.
“Yeah. Are you staying for the second service?”
“No, I’m leaving. The sermon was good, though. All about adoption, God as our Father. How was teaching today?”
“Oh, you know. It was mostly boys today. You know how they are. I have to tell them everything fifteen times for them to remember. They have about the same memories as goldfish. They sure are cute, though! I love those kids.”
About two minutes into the sermon on adoption, I was thinking about my preschoolers and goldfish. How little they know about the way the world works. How they both have about three-second memories. How impossible it was to get them to focus and behave, but that I love them, anyway.
And it occurred to me how much, as God’s adopted children and heirs, we are the same way. Forgetting His truths about who we are. Disobeying him at the drop of the hat. We are unruly and distracted by the temporary things of this world.
But still, He so patiently guides and teaches and disciplines us, tells us over and over again to walk with Him, to come and be with Him! I think He laughs in His wisdom and affection for us when we are being ridiculous, even though we don’t think we are. And I don’t think He wouldn’t use the word “exhausting” to describe us, either.
Or maybe, in a way, we aren’t childlike enough. We have lost our imaginations, our ability to look at this great big world, at this great big God with eyes of wonder. Our vision for eternity is clouded. Our dreams, our desires have shrunk, the way that goldfish do when they’re put in a smaller bowl. We want good money, a stable job, a nice car, an attractive spouse, lots of friends, entertainment and creature comforts. God probably sighs and smiles when we start begging for these rocks to play with because we don’t know that there are much lovelier pleasures for us around the corner, found in Him.
“No, sweetheart, that’s not good for you. You don’t have to do that anymore. Give it to Me. Come and sit with your Abba instead.” And we whine, and we weep. We focus on the temporary, fleeting things of Earth, of our broken selves, and ignore the beautiful realities of God, of heaven, of who we were meant to be.
We fix our eyes on the fishbowl and forget about the Ocean.
When this occurred to me, I had to write it down. A poem came out.
We’re all goldfish, really. We forget. We disobey. We content ourselves with dirty glass.
But, oh, so tenderly does He love us. Over and over again, our Father reminds us that we belong to him, that He chose us before all of creation, that through the forgiveness of Christ’s blood, He has legally adopted us so that we can know Him and be with Him in eternity. This is the Truth. This is the breath of life. This is the Gospel.
And if we look within it, we can find the Ocean.
-Erin Elizabeth xoxo