Playing Santa

I’m not sure why it is that my daughter and I have some of our strongest, if not bizarrest, conversations in the car. There was the time, driving home from Easter Sunday service, for example, when Clara asked me to explain “the birds and the bees.” Or the countless times she has relayed events at school… school bullies, blunders, and odd behaviors… long after the fact, as though she had been mulling things over and couldn’t quite figure them out. But the other day, she nearly caused me to drive off the road… in excitement. She began by saying, “Mom, I really wanna go to Africa.”
“Oh? For a specific reason?”
“Yes!” she replied. “I wanna take a whole bunch of toys with me and hand them out to the boys and girls who don’t have many toys.”
She went on to elaborate on her desire to see their faces light up when receiving these gifts. Then, she began to tackle the not-so-insignificant issue of where these toys would come from.
“Mom,” she thought out loud, “you know how I’ve saved up $100 of my own money? I would even use some of that to buy toys. We could go to Target! But the $25 gift card to Target I got for my birthday I would definitely keep to use for myself.” Ah well. She’s off to a great start, anyway.

The conversation veered off a bit with Joseph joining in and offering his input, but Clara revisited the idea a few days later. “Mom?” she started. “Maybe I could get a Santa suit and dress up like Santa when I deliver the toys to the kids in Africa. How come Santa doesn’t deliver toys to them?” As the mother of “Santa believers,” this was clearly a binding question and I handled it with as much grace as I could; “I’m not sure I can answer that one, honey.”

The importance of this conversation struck me further the other day when my morning devotional focused on some passages from 2 Timothy. Here, Paul encourages his friend with these words: “14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17 It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Timothy 3: 14 -17)

The following devotional talked about the importance of what we teach our children. First and foremost, we should seek God’s story through Scripture, not bend the story to reflect our own. Winn Collier, who wrote the devotional for the day, commented: “Our problem is that we’ve learned to read the Bible
as a story where we’re the central characters, and so
we teach our kids to read the Bible as though they’re the
central characters. But this is all wrong: God is in the
spotlight.” Collier explains that we tend to diminish Bible stories to Aesop-like fables and lose sight of the awesome power of God displayed in the stories. Is the telling of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 about a little boy who shares his fish and bread or about God’s power and Jesus’ example of relying on God?

Obviously, Clara has heard talk about Africa around the house. Obviously, like most people, she has a compassionate side and the stories I’ve told or that she has heard from Uncle Lee, Aunt Anne, Aunt Donna, and the rest of the Compassion Tea team have piqued that compassionate tendency. These are important stories to pass on. But the trick will be to take the reality of them beyond the mythical, to translate the tendency toward compassion into real action.

Perhaps a trip to Africa is in our near future? I don’t know. But I pray that my teaching is more than just “shoulds” and empty platitudes, that my kids see real action, real living out faith and belief from me.

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