I was asked to talk to a group of young children and tell them about my faith and spiritual life.
I said yes, but then as I started to think about how I might do it, it became really challenging.
I’ve been a student of theology for nearly 2 decades. Almost everything I have learned is complex and in order to say anything I have to spend a lot of time listing exceptions, limiting applications etc.
So how on earth was I to share my faith with little children?!
I eventually decided that the best thing I could do was use pictures that show some of the things I hold most deeply as spiritual convictions.
My first picture was this one. It shows a despondent man with a heart-shaped hole in his chest.
For me this illustrates that quote from St Augustine, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee”. This is often stated as there being a God-shaped hole in us that nothing but a relationship with Jesus can fulfil.
In sharing this with the children I used the example of the children’s toy with different shaped holes and different shaped blocks. You cannot fill a hole with any shape other than the one that corresponds. In a similar way I believe that all other attempts to find fulfilment, purpose in life, significance, or to make sense of the way the universe is, with be ultimately unsatisfactory outside of a relationship with Jesus.
The second picture I showed the children was this one by Greg OLSEN.
The image shows a young man, a backpacker, sitting down on a bench chatting with Jesus.
The young man looks a little tired, despondent; Jesus looks friendly, interested, animated, and concerned.
For me this picture sums up how fantastic it is to be able to talk to Jesus at any moment in my life’s journey. When I’m tired, sad, angry, losing me way, scared, confused etc. I can just stop. Take a few minutes out and talk with Jesus. It is so great to know that he comes to me, listens and that he will help me find my way forward. Whatever I need – encouragement, challenge, direction, perspective etc. Jesus can give that to me.
Of course prayer is also really great for the positive moments in my journey too. Jesus loves to share my joys and successes and to share my simple enjoyment of the everyday pleasures of life. Expressing gratitude to Jesus for these things is really important and also health-giving if scientific studies are to be believed.
The final picture was this one by YONGSUNG KIM.
It shows a moment from the story when Jesus walked on the water to his disciples who were in a small boat in a storm.
One of the disciples, St Peter, had had the courage to ask Jesus if he could walk on the water and come to meet him.
Jesus invited Peter to come to him and he was initially able to walk on the water too.
But then Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he started to look at the waves and the storm instead. At that moment St Peter started to sink.
This picture captures the moment when Jesus reaches down to a sinking Peter and draws he back up and brings him safely to the boat. There is no anger, disappointment, disapproval in the face of Jesus, simply a welcoming smile.
I find this picture a powerful reminder that when I foul up, lose faith, make mistakes, get it badly wrong etc. Jesus is not angry, he is not disappointed. He simply comes to me, stretches out his hand, helps me up and says, ‘Let’s try again’.
These were my three pictures. The children seemed to understand them and to understand something of what I was trying to share.
Which, I suppose reminds me that ultimately the Christian faith is both a mystery too deep for human minds to fully comprehend and a simple love relationships with Jesus that is accessible even to the youngest child.