The first time I held our daughter, I felt relief and then guilt. I had seen her miniature face for about 30 seconds before the neonatal intensive care staff whisked her away. It was 24 hours before I was allowed out of bed to see her.
At 34 weeks, Ellie was supposed to be nurtured safe inside me. Yet here she was struggling to survive in a bright and painful world because I had developed preeclampsia.
As I held that little slip of humanity, I was overwhelmed with a sense of “it’s not supposed to be this way.”
Isn’t that one of the deepest truths of our existence? We live in a world that isn’t supposed to be this way.
As a parent, I’m faced with the task of explaining to this precious little one why some people don’t have enough to eat, why addiction and betrayal destroy lives and relationships, why people live in fear and why her daddy’s chronic pain keeps him from running and playing with her like other daddies can.
Life isn’t supposed to be this way. God has a better plan.
At every stage of my daughter’s faith formation, I’ve struggled with how to share about sin and salvation. I want her to understand that the world’s brokenness is not God’s plan and that Jesus offers healing and hope. I want her to know and love herself — the beautiful, precious, perfect person God created to bless our family and our world.
As a librarian, I am always looking for resources to share with her and to shape our language as caregivers to convey these essential truths. Unfortunately, I see a lot of language and ideas that fit my own childhood concept of sin and salvation but that now feel uncomfortable to me as a parent.
When I was young, I made salvation bracelets where each colored bead stood for something (black for sin, white for salvation is troubling on multiple levels), and I formed the idea that I was a bad person who needed Christ to save me because I was fundamentally bad.
I want my daughter to know that she is good and called to be as perfect as her Heavenly Parent but that we all are capable of destructive choices.
When I went to Hesston College, my understanding of sin and salvation was transformed by the definition of sin as the breaking of relationships between us and God, within ourselves, between us and others and between us and all of creation.
Suddenly I could see it: Sin was a part of my life not because I was a bad person but because I was a good creation who had the freedom to make bad choices — or good ones.
This is how I want my daughter to understand sin and Jesus’ healing work.
As I write this during Lent, looking forward to the joy of Easter, I have been thinking about how we talk about Jesus’ death on the cross — the “why” of this piece of the Easter story. I feel inadequate for the task. I wish I had just the right book to read with Ellie to share these truths without having to edit or add my own commentary (she’s starting to read now, so she picks up on my verbal edits).
I had a chance to see the content for The Peace Table and stopped short when I got to the “Peace Paths.” There it was: a way to help me share my understanding of sin and salvation with my daughter using the biblical stories she is already learning to love as her story. These paths include Peace with God, Peace Inside, Peace with Others and Peace with Creation.
When we make poor choices that lead to brokenness (lack of peace) in these four areas, our God of peace calls us to be peacemakers (make positive choices) in these same areas.
Caregivers have many demands on our time and energy. For faith formation to happen at home, we need simple resources that align with our faith. I am thankful for this new tool to help me share my faith authentically.
Now, as I hold my sweet kindergartner for devotions and bedtime stories, I still sometimes think about the things in my life, and in her life, that are not as they are supposed to be. At the same time, I am thankful for the ways we are growing together into the peacemakers God wants us to be.
Jennie Wintermote is director of the Conference Resource Library of Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA and business manager for Anabaptist World Inc. She is a member of First Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan.
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