By Melanie Cave
This is the 2nd gem I’ve gleaned from the Parenting for Faith Course we’re running by Rachel Turner.
We hope our children will have a personal relationship with God, but sometimes only know concepts about him. They don’t actually know how God behaves in relationship. To help children build real relationship with God they need to understand what he is like in relationship. What does it actually mean that he is love, that he cares, that he is with us. This gives them an idea of what a relationship with God could be like for them. So a great way to do this is tell Bible Stories to your children with God as the main character. This means you will need to tell the stories more spontaneously (adlib a bit) as most children’s Bible’s don’t read this way naturally (even Scripture it self tends to tell the bare bones of the story).
Enter into the story, and try to imagine and tell the story from God’s perspective.
For those of you who are worrying about straying from Scripture, this is quite similar to the ancient way of reading scripture- Lecto Divino- reading and rereading (a number of times) the scripture and getting into the story- living and breathing it, putting ourselves into the story and experiencing God in it. This is simply storytelling off the back of this process. And this is the way the Israelites would have taught their families. The first 5 books of the bible would have been memorized and told to children in an oral tradition. So as we tell the story, we stop to talk about "How does God feel? What does He hope for? What does He want to do? What makes him happy or sad?" We connect what we know about God and his character from other scriptures, to this Bible story and those circumstances. So for example, if we know God is close to the broken hearted, we might tell a Bible story about a character who is sad, and we stop and describe God being close- what does that feel like- what does God do? How does He touch or interact with the characters relationally to encourage them or strengthen them?
(The See With Me Bible might be a helpful Bible for this as it has no words, so you have to just look at the pictures and talk about what’s going on! Then some children won’t be annoyed that you’re not reading the words on the page.)
Its easier to understand this when you experience it, so here’s an example of one I did with the story of Noah. You might not agree with how I see God or think he might act, but you can see that a child hearing this story would have have more insight into how to connect to God in difficult times.
If you like this story, you could write your own, and print out a paragraph on each page, and get your children to illustrate it.
Noah (the rest of this blog is my retelling of the Bible Story of Noah imagining what God felt and did).
God was heart-broken. Everywhere he looked he could see people being cruel, fighting and killing. His precious children were hurting, trapped in their bad choices. They had completely forgotten God and His ways. They lied, and then lied some more to cover it up. They bullied and then bullied some more, because they were afraid. They fought and fought some more because they had forgotten how to listen and work things out together. There was killing, anger, and hatred everywhere. And none of his children could stop it. God cried as he felt the pain of his children. It just kept getting worse. How could he stop it getting worse? His people lived for hundreds of years and the children were learning cruelty and evil from their parents. Each generation was taking it to new lows. God could see the consequences of all of these bad choices and evil. It had to stop.
Then Noah interrupted God in His sadness. Noah had woken up in the morning and started worshipping and praying. He came up close to God singing and full of joy. God loved being with Noah and Noah loved being with God. Noah’s worship and heartfelt prayers reminded God that there was hope. If only everyone on earth could see how Noah loved. Noah’s simple trust, his joy, his kindness, and his good choices, even when it was hard made him stand out! The atmosphere around Noah felt safe, and warm, like God had always intended earth to be.
Listening to Noah sing, God had a plan. He wanted to stop the evil that was growing and growing. He wanted to restart the earth, with Noah. God would let Noah show the entire world that He is good, powerful and loving. Noah could show the world that making bad choices leads to bad consequences, and trusting God leads to salvation. God would let Noah teach his family and all his children and his grandchildren that God’s love changes us, and helps us make good choices.
God held Noah’s hands and looked into his eyes. “Noah I’ve got a plan. I want you to build a huge boat. I want to stop the evil. I want to rescue you and your family and the animals. I want you to trust me and follow my instructions. Will you do that?”
Noah, felt the warmth of God holding his hands. He felt God’s goodness and love towards him. “What is a boat?” Noah had never heard of a boat. “Rescue?” That sounded like something scary might happen. Hmmm. Noah closed his eyes and focused his heart on who God is: God is love. God is good. God is a good Father to me. He cares for us. So Noah said, “God I trust your plans are for our good, even when I don’t understand them. I will do whatever you ask.”
God smiled, his heart filling up with love, pride and excitement. Here was his friend Noah, his friend who he could trust. God’s plan to restart the earth would work because his friend Noah would trust Him and do what he asked.
So God began to show Noah plans for building a big boat- called an ark. It would take a long time to build- it was so big. Noah would need his children to help him. Noah started working, cutting down trees, cutting planks of wood, building the boat. Every day, Noah would worship and pray and ask God to help him. Noah wrote down God’s instructions so he could follow them exactly, and God was always there helping Noah, reminding him and showing him how it would work. God worked with Noah, showing him how to build, showing him if the wood was weak or if part of the boat wouldn’t work. Noah and God got creative together, making it a special and comfortable place to be. Noah and God felt joy and love as Noah worshiped while banging in nails and building the huge boat over many, many years.
But when Noah wasn’t building it wasn’t that fun. The people who lived around him were cruel. They didn’t understand what he was doing. Though Noah explained and told them about God’s love and his plan to rescue the world, they just laughed at Noah; mean, bullying laughs that made Noah’s heart hurt. He felt angry that people would ignore God and be so cruel to each other. God knew it wasn’t right what the people were saying about Noah and about Him, but God also felt really proud of Noah. Watching Noah made him feel full of affection, and God’s chest puffed up with pride and joy. God’s smile over Noah was huge. Noah was showing great courage. Noah was persevering. Noah kept going. He kept trusting God. He kept following God’s instructions even when it was really hard! God knew it was a good choice to trust Noah with his important plan.
There were days when Noah got really tired and upset. It was hard work. His neighbours were cruel. Noah had to pray and forgive his neighbours a lot because they were so unkind with their words and actions. Noah would cry before God, and God help him while he sobbed. God felt sad too. The world was so broken. It needed a fresh start. Some days God and Noah cried together. And then God would start to sing, something soft and beautiful, and Noah’s tears would stop as God held him, and God would carry Noah until Noah felt strong and safe in God’s love again.
Finally the big boat was finished. God and Noah started filling the arc with food, barrels to hold water for drinking, hay and comfortable beds. God had a fun idea; he thought he would honour Noah in front of all the people who had been making fun of him. So God called to Noah and said, “come stand by the arc with your family.”
Noah could hear some funny noises in the distance. Then two elephants came charging full-speed towards the arc! Then two lions ambled along. The people standing around were astonished and scared. The animals came straight towards the arc. Noah opened the big door and they walked straight onboard.
God chuckled as he watched the astonished faces of the people. More animals came in pairs, while people gasped or drew back in fear. Noah felt a sense of peace as he loaded the animals into the ark with his family. God was doing what he said, and everyone could see God was doing something amazing.
Animals don’t just come and get into a boat, not without someone making them go in. But these animals came willingly. Noah and God could see that angels were gathering the animals and walking with them, keeping them calm, as they were loaded into the arc. God had assigned angels to keep the animals calm and healthy for the whole time they were in the arc. But the people watching could only see the most amazing procession of animals into Noah’s big boat. For once their cruel mouths didn’t haven anything mean to say- they were so amazed by what God was doing. Noah, gestured to the people. “Did anyone want to come in? Did anyone want to be rescued? Did anyone want to trust God and be part of what he was doing?” But the people just stared. They were too scared. They didn’t know God, or love him. They didn’t trust God. They turned their backs on Noah and the arc and walked away.
When Noah and the angels had finished loading the animals into the arc, God hugged Noah. “Well done my brave one. You have been so faithful! You have been so courageous, and you kept going when it was hard. You really trusted Me. Now I am going to protect you and keep you safe. Get inside with all of your family. I’m going to shut the door.”
Noah and his family went inside and made themselves comfortable in the boat. The angels kept all the animals calm and happy.
Once Noah and his family and the animals were safely inside, God sighed and shut the door tight. His heart was proud of Noah, and also desperately sad. His world, his children were so broken, so hardened, angry and cruel. And God began to cry, Deep heart broken sobs for his broken world and his children who would not choose him. As God cried, the storm clouds came and it began to rain. It rained and rained and rained. God sobbed for the earth and all the pain. Earthquakes shuddered and the oceans heaved. Tsunami waves flooded the earth. It kept raining and raining, for 40 days and 40 nights.
And inside the arc, Noah and his family prayed and came close to God. And God would sing, something soft and beautiful, and Noah’s fears and tears for the lost world would stop as God held him, and God would carry Noah until Noah felt strong and safe in God’s love again. “I will keep you safe. I will rescue you. We will start again.”
Finally after 40 days, the rain stopped and God started to dry out the land. The arc got stuck on a mountaintop called Ararat. Noah opened a window and they all drank in fresh air. God told Noah and his family to rest in the arc, while he cleaned up and restarted the earth. God sent a wind to blow on the water and it began to evaporate and go back into the oceans. The floodwaters drained away slowly. Then Noah let a bird, a raven, out of the ark. It flew around but it couldn’t find anywhere safe to land so it came back to the arc.
Slowly, as God watched and the angels carefully tended them, seeds took root and trees began to grow and bud again. Noah sent out a dove from the arc, but again it came back. God saw to it that fruit trees bore fruit and grass grew and that there were places for all the animals to make homes. Noah sent out the dove again, and this time it brought back a branch from an olive tree. Noah took the branch and showed it to his family. “The earth was made new again!
Noah let the dove out again, and this time it didn’t come back, it had made a nest in a tree! God put his hand on Noah’s back. “It is ready. It is all made new. Let’s start again. You trusted me.”
Noah stood still under God’s hand, feeling God’s love and confidence in him. God I will teach my children to love you and trust you and make choices by talking with you.”
So God opened the door and the angels helped all the animals out to find new places to live. Noah and his family came out of the arc. Noah made a special altar out of big stones on the mountain. And he offered sacrifices to say thank you to God for how keeping his promise and rescuing him and his family.
God smiled and then he touched the sky and caused the sun to break through the clouds- making a stunning rainbow shine in the sky. God whispered in Noah’s ear- “This is my promise- I won’t flood the earth again.“ And God walked down the mountain with Noah and they chatted and made plans for how they would build a home together.