Let me start by telling you this story happened when I was in college.
Normally, that’s the first line in a harrowing tale, but not this case. It’s the first line in what would become for me an eye-opening truth.
It started one day in the small church I attended. There were a few preschoolers who went there and for whom the church decided a class was needed.
But who would teach the class? Church elders reasoned that young mothers probably needed a class of their own to attend. Grandmothers in the crowd weren’t fighting to keep up the energy levels needed for preschool. I was the only one not fitting into one of the above descriptions, so the lot fell to me.
Sure, they were cute kids, but what did I know about teaching little guys? To say I was less than enthusiastic would be spot-on.
I knew the Bible stories I’d heard as a child, but nothing in my background shouted teach it to others. Especially little innocents who didn’t know anything about Moses or Daniel or Jesus.
So, I was handed some preschool books, a board covered with flannel and a packet of “Make It-Take It” cut-outs. I let it sit unopened in my car for several days. It was more than I could handle. I knew that, and something told me God knew that, too. It was just the church elders who were unaware of that which was glaringly obvious to me. And God.
I kept waiting for one of those elders to call me and say they’d slept on it and decided I would not be anyone’s first choice for preschool teacher. That reprieve never came.
So, I cracked open the lesson one night and tried to figure out how a flannel board works.
It wasn’t pretty, but those little guys helped me through the first week. They really were sweet, and I fell in love with them before we said goodbye at the end of that first gathering.
The next week the same few kids came and helped me get through the next lesson. They didn’t care that I fumbled with the flannel board. They never noticed that their crafts were shoddy. They even smiled when I sang off-key.
They impressed me with all they remembered from week to week. They quickly learned Bible stories and seemed really eager every week to learn more.
The knot in my stomach was slowly beginning to ease.
Until one Sunday morning. We had our lesson, we had our music and we’d had our snack. It was coloring time, which meant this teacher could breathe easy.
Suddenly, one of the little boys in the class realized that in the story we’d learned that day, Jesus was in a boat with three of his helpers. In our coloring book, there were only two in the boat with him.
Where was that third guy, the kids demanded.
“Geesh, give it a break” my mind screamed. The lesson is over, the corresponding craft and song have ended, just color and turn off your minds. Like I did.
They were relentless. And growing in concern as I sat there speechless, not knowing where the third guy had gone. One stopped coloring until the wrong was righted. It was becoming a movement which I didn’t know how to handle.
It finally dawned on me that the lesson, like our faith, was not just for a few minutes. Those little guys taught me that after learning the lesson we should not just tuck the stories of faith into a neat compartment not to be revisited until the next church visit.
This Easter, it’s a lesson that comes back to me in spades. The story, the hope and the faith greeting me at church are not something to leave there. I must take all that with me for the rest of the week. The rest of the year. And the rest of my life. That faith is something that can stay with me always. It’s something that shines on us during our triumphs as well as the times we drag ourselves through the mud of everyday life. It’s ever-breathing and ever-growing.
Those preschoolers taught me that faith is with us all the time. And even when things get ugly — and one guy goes missing — you don’t abandon the worship.
For the record, the mystery of the missing guy in the coloring book was solved by another preschooler. She was not thrown off by the discussion and never missed a beat of coloring. Do you know what she told us happened to the third guy in the boat?
He stood on the bank and took the picture.
That’s a faith that doesn’t end.