Our daughter is seven and very proud of how neatly she can print. She was very excited to get her first fountain pen for her birthday. Her daddy does have a passion for and collection of these fine writing instruments, after all. It should have come as no surprise, therefore, that her doodles during church this weekend included words along with pictures. What was the genuine surprise and thrill to the heart for both her mother and me was what those words were. In the textbook-perfect lettering that only a child can produce, she wrote the following.
I Love God
I Love my God every day (This was above drawings of a cup of wine and a loaf of bread.)
God (This was written next to a cross inside a heart that was above three other crosses.)
God is light
Could any parent's heart be gladder? Yet this is not a post about cute children, the depth of our young ones, or just what was going in a little girl's mind to express the idea that God is light (we do not recite Nicene Creed at our church) and to doodle the elements of the eucharist (we only celebrate communion once a month or so). It is a post about the end of innocence.
Very often when she makes me a picture or does something for the first time, she asks me to share it with my students. Regular readers of this blog will know that I teach Latin at a large, public high school. And so it was, that as we drove home I felt a spear piercing my heart when our little girl said from the back seat, "Daddy, be sure you share my papers with your students." I fumbled some response as racking pain grabbed at my chest. How could I tell this innocent child that her expressions of love for God would not necessarily be welcomed at my school? Were I to have told her that some might not like it, I could have guaranteed her response. "Why, Daddy?"
As James once wrote, this ought not to be (James 3:10). I can take great satisfaction that I am living out the call of God on my life by being a Christian presence in the public schools, but, my friends, this ought not to be. What kind of environment have we created where expressions of adoration to God would be unwelcome? What have we done? What have we become? I have written much in many places the disaster that is an educational system predicated on the notion that God does not exist or is not welcome. Yet when confronted once again by the painful reality, I breathless with grief.
As I thought back over this before leaving for work this morning, I decided that public school was precisely the place where the heart of a little girl for God needed to be seen the most. I took our daughter's papers with me. My classes usually begin with announcement about this or that activity, and during that time I talked about how little girls can wrap their daddies around their little fingers. This brought knowing nods from my female students, and I proceeded to tell them how our daughter is beginning her printing and had asked me to share what she had doodled in church with my students. I showed them her writing, drawing attention to the neatly shaped letters and contrasting them with my own scrawl on the board. I said nothing about the content of what she had written, merely letting her words speak for themselves, and we went on about the business of learning Latin. Someday, I will have to tell her about a world that rejects such love even as it once rejected the Lord of love Himself. That day is not now, however, and I can only pray that her innocent words may carry the light that is God to a dark world.
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