My mom has called me a lot of things in my life, (aggravating, obnoxious, wild, impatient, hot-tempered) but “hard-headed” has not regularly been one of them. I guess that’s because my little sisters displayed way more stubbornness or strong-will than I ever dreamed of. And good for them, too–I could have avoided many compromising situations if only I possessed even a fraction of the stick-to-it-tiveness Jenny and Katie have.
Despite my stunning lack of will power, I’m not the easiest one to teach when it comes to life lessons. It takes several rounds of “learning the hard way” for something to sink into my brain. I hope and pray my children do not inherit this amazing quality.
But God has found another way to reach me; He knows my weaknesses. I’d like to tell you it was my decision, or that I was suckered into it (I was), but the truth is, 2 years ago, God set me up in the one position that would force me to pay attention: children’s ministry.
Every Sunday morning, I and my wonderful teachering-partner, Becky, sweat to death in a happy little room filled with lovable, rowdy, snot-nosed (sorry, but they are), in-the-midst-of-potty-training, 2 and 3-year-old children. (Actually, come to think of it, maybe this is a form of learning the hard way.)
And every Sunday morning, I learn more about the stories of the bible than I have ever learned my whole life long. I guess God knows I need His truths put in kid-friendly terms; He knows the information will sink in as long as I’m trying to teach it to others. And I love it.
I love it because it’s important. I love it because I understand toddler bible-studies better than I do ones designed for people my own age. I love the kids. I love their parents. I love the curriculum. I love the story line. I love the bible and I am in love with God.
Today we were going over the story of Joseph–and, real quick, to recap: Joseph was the son of Jacob, who had like a million (or 12) sons. Joseph got a coat of many colors to wear. His brothers were totes jealous. They plotted against Joseph. Threw him down a pit. Sold him to some passing slave-traders. Told their dad that Joseph was eaten by an animal. (So wrong, by the way.) Joseph was taken to Egypt. Joseph was sold as a slave. Joseph was accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Joseph was put in prison, for years.
Sounds straight terrible if you ask me. How even is God with Joseph through all of this? His future seems pretty freaking bleak. Joseph goes through some crazy stuff. Most people would have abandoned their faith right along with their hopes and dreams by that point. Life sucks, and then you die. Poor Joseph. God’s not doing him any favors, right?
NOT RIGHT. God was, is, and will always be in control.
My class has this ongoing great debate over whether or not the man who introduces our bible-story-video is actually God. (To be clear: He is not.) One girl had a built a pretty solid case, though, on as to why she thought the man was indeed God: “NU-HUH! CAUSE GOD IS THE STORY MAKER, HE IS THE MAN WHO TELLS THE STORIES!”
God not only tells our stories, He writes them. And He doesn’t just make crap up as He goes along. He plans. He waits. He knows what will happen and He knows just what course to take in response to our every action, our every word, our every thought.
Our stories–our lives– they’re not guaranteed to be easy or fun or predictable and safe. In fact, some of the best stories in the bible are so far opposite of those things–but that’s what makes them the best.
Joseph would not be Joseph if he hadn’t been sold into slavery. He wouldn’t have gone to Egypt if God had kept him in Israel under the watchful eyes of his loving parents. If Joseph had not gone to Egypt; if he hadn’t gone to prison, Joseph would never have found himself in the service and favor of the pharaoh, and Joseph’s entire family would have starved during a famine 20 years later. Talk about life sucking.
I sometimes thank God for my teacher’s guide:
“Joseph recognized that though his brothers intended evil, God planned his circumstances for good to establish a remnant of God’s people (Genesis 45:7). Likewise, although those who crucified Jesus intended evil, God’s plan for the sacrifice of His Son was for the good of all people. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, God again saved a remnant of people.” –my teacher’s guide has all the answers and I love it.
Thank you God, for my teacher’s guide.
I tried to convey my enthusiasm for Joseph’s juicy plot line to the 2-year-old crowd this morning: “Are you guys seeing this? Isn’t it SO awesome? God loves you and you are important to Him! He has big plans for you even though sometimes things are hard or scary! God is going to use all of you for something special. DOESN’T THAT JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?!!!”
Their “not impressed” facial expressions and their incessant chanting for animal crackers put an abrupt end to my lesson, so I’ll have to share it with you fine people instead: God does not forget us. He does not leave us and He does not stop loving us. He writes our stories and He keeps His promises.
“Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15