This is the third in a series of posts on nurturing the inner life alongside young children. You may like to read this brief introduction to the series before continuing.
Stories can start anywhere.
“Mummy – what does that sign say on that bench?”
“It says it’s there to remember someone who died”
“I don’t know – just somebody who liked this place”
“Do we know somebody who died?”
“Yes. Grandma died, just before you were born…”
And so I tell Ben the story of his Grandma. I tell him what she was like, and how much she would have loved him. About how I promised to tell him all about her. I show him photos. We talk about Heaven and Jesus and how many cats Daddy and Grandma had when Daddy was a little boy. And what their names were. And are there cats in Heaven? (My answer is yes). And can Ben have a cat at home? (My answer is no).
Stories tell us who we are.
They tell us where we have come from.
They might hint at where we’re going.
Kids love stories. So do adults – we just forget that we like them so much.
Stories make great prayers for kids. Not just reading the Bible together, or retelling faith stories. We find God in all sorts of stories. God is there in Stick Man and Dear Zoo. God is found in Sarah and Duck, and Peppa Pig. Everywhere we hear stories of love and laughter, of loyalty and trust, of hope and generosity – there God is to be found.
Just as we know ourselves by our stories, so we know God by his stories. The stories we tell to make sense of the world, and to process life. These stories all tell us a little bit more about who God is, and why he is, and how and where and what he is. This stuff – identity, security, revelation, thanksgiving, hope – is the stuff of prayer.
I try to tell stories to my kids. We read picture books; watch films; make things up. I tell them where they have come from – and what is important and why?
And I try to listen. I listen to their own fantasies and dreams and anecdotes. We explore and adventure together through story, and offer it all to God as prayer.
When we lose our stories, we lose our lives. But wherever there are stories, there is God.
(And while we’re on it, check out the brilliant Storytime Service website!)