When I was 5 years old, I had my first major argument with a friend, she was the youngest of a big clan and used to standing up for herself and I was the eldest and not used at all to being challenged. It must have been dramatic as I still remember it clearly, word for word, emotion for emotion. Were we going to be friends again? (we still are), what would our joint friends do? So many unknowns.
When we are young, life is not carefree, we are learning, experiencing good and bad for the first time. There are so many questions, so many things to learn. Where do we fit, where does God fit?
So, I would have thought that the story of Job would be a great one to share with children as well as adults, but no children’s story book bible that I am aware of contains the story of Job. My favourite Children’s book along Job’s lines is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voist, but this is a secular storybook and it is up the child to wonder, how God might fit into this story. I often use storybooks because sometimes, storybooks can help explain concepts or ideas that our conventional story book Bibles leave out, overlook or feel are inappropriate for our young. Which is why I am often referring to them in the weekly RCL blog.
So why are our Story book Bibles without stories of hardship and tragedy, or difficult situations?
Not so long ago our storybook Bibles had great tales of boys and nothing of biblical females except as supporting elements in the story. With the rise of Feminist Theology, we have more great stories of women in the Bible, coming to the fore, women who were previously hidden in full sight. Two of my favourite story books about Biblical women are, Celebrating Great Women of the Bible, Brave Girls Bible Stories, by Jennifer Gerelds,
and Love Letters from God, Bible Stories for a Girls’ Heart by Glenys Nellist.
Fashion, or the rising opinion of the day colours the type of stories we have in recently published story books. Few would have known two years ago that these stories of challenge and questioning would be needed? That is just my point, we do not know what our children will need, tales of ill health, tales of the unexpected and the fraught, triumph over tragedy are as important for our children to read and discover as any other.
Unwieldy children’s books become an issue and the long delay in publishing are two issues that can limit the types of stories we see in Children’s story Bibles. It is important that our children have a variety of books containing a variety of stories, often a costly outlay that many small churches and parents cannot afford. But the payoff is huge. Thankfully many books are available on line as ebooks or youtube or vimeo clips or game apps (the Bible App for Kids, Guardians of Ancora or The Big Little Bible), which helps reduce the cost. Though a channel of Christian story books would be wonderful if anyone has the capacity. And though the computer or ipad are tactile, there is a difference to the feel and smell of a traditional paper book that enlivens the senses and imagination differently.
Where the story is not available then act it out, or retell it, but don’t sanitise it, apart from making it age appropriate, because little lives have big problems too.
I am writing this on Wurundjeri land and wish to pay respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.