In entering a story, each person will find herself or himself at a differ- ent place on the path, and the different points on the path will invite exploration. Different truths are revealed at different times for different people and in different ways. “Imagination,” said the young child in the film Gratitude, “could lead you to a beach or something and it could be beautiful…”
For some, the path will lead beyond the beach, perhaps to an island. Others will stop before the beach, at a sand dune. And some may settle on the beach with shells that are waiting to share their stories.
The challenge for each of us, in our different contexts, is how we travel that pathway with children. Do we hurry them along to a destina- tion, or do we stop, explore, take side-tracks, and scratch and crawl under the bushes? How do we travel the pathway with young people? Do we allow them to take risks, to go to the edges, explore, find their own way home? Or do we haul them back to what we think is a “safe” theology?
As companions on the path that leads children to something “beau- tifuller,” do the words we choose leave opportunities for more than one response, depending on where people are on their journeys? If they do, we extend an invitation for explorations that can lead to a new under- standing and faith growth. Open-ended questions provide openings for us to see anew how God is in the world and to imagine new ways of being in the world. As we gather around story we might ask and discuss questions and wonderings such as these:The Bible does not tell us what happened next in the story – I wonder what the older brother did next? I wonder what the ten who were cured of leprosy said when they arrived home? I wonder if the disciples did as Jesus asked? What questions does this story raise for you? What truths did you discover in this story? What do you think it reveals about who God is? …about who Jesus is? What does this story/vision suggest about the way we might live as disciples following in the way of Jesus?
In an interview about her book Hunwick’s Egg, Australian children’s writer Mem Fox was asked what children might feel about Hunwick’s relationship with the egg. “Whatever they want to feel,” she said. “Sad, happy, full of hope, comforted, or encouraged. The beauty of this story is that children will take from it whatever they need, depending on their own loneliness and when they read it, or their own friendships, or their need for good friends in their lives.”7
Young people will take from a story whatever they need.That should be enough for us, as well.
An animated cartoon by Australian cartoonist, poet, and philosopher Michael Leunig depicts a lonely figure sitting on a simple stool and hold- ing a book titled “Book of Butterflies.” As the character leafs through the book, it slowly begins to come alive and literally take flight. The room brightens as the illustrations in the book fill with colour, and the butterflies are liberated from the page. Butterflies fill the room, delight- ing the reader. How might this be an image of the stories of our faith? How will the word be liberated for new generations and new kinds of Christianity?
May we journey also with a vision that will bring us into something “beautifuller.”
Susan Burt is Managing Editor of Seasons of the Spirit, an international, ecumenical, and lectionary-based Christian education and worship resource. She has served as the Australian editor of The Whole People of God and has worked in children’s ministry for the Uniting Church in Australia. Susan lives in Adelaide, South Australia, where she is a member of the Christ Church Uniting Church, a theologically progressive community that seeks to celebrate the best of the old with the possibility of the new.
At Wood Lake Publishing we are passionate about supporting and encouraging an emerging form of Christianity, which is rooted in ancient wisdom and attentive to the movement of spirit in our day. Visit us online at woodlakebooks.com