I wrote the following last night, as a part of my application to the Elementary Education program at Moody.
Twelve years old, and it’s Sunday morning. From where I’m sitting in this basement sanctuary, I can see the front; the worship team, the pastor. I can see them, but they’re not all I see. Two rows up, three rows over, even to the very end of the sanctuary, I catch glimpses of the children of the church. Little ones, younger ones, that I’ve known for weeks, months, years. Little ones whose hearts and minds I’ve come to know and love.
An hour later, the service is over and I’m not in the aisle anymore, not seated on the blue padded chair anymore. I’m in the church lobby, a chubby toddler named Emma balanced on my young adolescent hip, her older sister, a lean kindergartener, clutching my hand.
Individuals my age are hard to come by in this church body, but that’s okay; I look up to the college students, relishing the time they spend investing in my life, and I spend my after-church community time where I most want to be: in the children’s classrooms. The adults in my life, starting with my parents, are showing me how to love, how to teach, how to train a heart, and I’m knee-deep in the practical application of the life lessons I’m soaking up from them.
I’m in the Sunday school room, playing and interacting as the children wait for their parents to come collect them. Balanced on a child sized chair, I listen to Isabelle tell me about her craft project, her frizzy braids bobbing up and down in her excitement. A pull on my hand and Elijah fights to capture my attention, his four-year-old cowlick sticking up rather comically from the top of his head. All around me, little ones, precious young ones, are growing and living and learning, and I’m head over heels in love with their hearts, their lives.
Twelve years old and people ask me what I’ll do when I grow up. I don’t know exactly, but something with kids, I tell them. I know it’ll be something with kids.
Years have passed, I may be older now, but my answer has not changed; something with kids. I attend Moody Bible Institute and list myself as a children’s ministry major; there are young ones, growing and developing hearts and minds, all over the world, and when I finish school, I’m going to minister to them. Minister to these children because that’s what I’ve felt called to all my life. That’s what has brought me the greatest joy. I know what I’ll do.
But slowly, another thought begins to take shape. An idea, a vague conviction, that’s been pulling at the back of my consciousness for years now.
The majority of the young ones I interact with daily are no longer church-raised children, but rather young individuals that I coach on the youth swim team, or fatherless children at an orphanage in central Mexico. Some of them have the Holy Spirit working in their hearts, some of them don’t, but they are still growing, still learning. Jesus in their hearts or not, someone is still teaching these children, training their minds, molding the way they think about the world, the other souls they interact with daily; molding the very way they see their Creator.
I’m still deeply entrenched in their lives and stories, I still love them with a love I now recognize only the Lord could give, but something pulls at my heart. These children, Christian or not, need someone to teach them. Their schools are teaching them facts and information, but they’re also teaching them so much more.
Day in, day out, the precious ones here are learning, learning because they are always watching. Watching teachers, watching role models, watching peers. They’re picking up on worldviews that come naturally; humanistic, individualistic ways of thinking, of living. They don’t know the names of the beliefs that they’re subconsciously making their own, but what is being taught explicitly and implicitly in their schools, whether Christian or otherwise, is affecting the way they see the world, the way they see everything.
There’s deep beauty in their own hearts. I didn’t know the word for it when I was 12, but I do now; it’s the image of God. These precious, God-created children bear the image of God in them. It’s what makes them, makes all individuals, beautiful and at the same time deeply tragic. Tragic because this image we bear is a scarred, marred image.
We’re fallen and need for the Redeemer to heal our hearts, to heal the way we think and see.
Does the way children are being taught the world over teach them to see the Redeemer? To see Him in their peers? In the creation we’re utterly surrounded by? In themselves?
I’m fallen and marred, too. I don’t always see the beauty, the Creator, as I should, but part of being a Redeemer is that He chooses to use individuals who are broken, who are marred, and yet who have chosen to serve Him. He chose me, I chose Him, and I choose education. Because these children, these students, need someone to show them the image of the One who made them; someone to show them, and to teach them to see Him everywhere.