When I was growing up, I went to this thing called Sunday School. I was always a little put out about the name, as the content had absolutely nothing to do with the actual day of the week. We didn’t call the school I was attending each day of the week “Weekday school” – and so I thought it was a silly idea to call something Sunday school if we weren’t going to talk about Sundays at all. I’m crazy, I know – thanks for indulging me.
What we DID talk about though, were stories from the Bible. Adam & Eve, Moses and the exodus from Egypt, Noah and the Ark, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Daniel and a den of lions – we hit all the major ones and more. It wasn’t the first time I had heard these stories, as my parents had been sharing them with me basically since I was born, but it might have been the first time that I was able to understand some of them, and have a conversation with other people about the events that they entail. It was a learning experience, and one I am grateful for.
Imagine my surprise however, when, upon becoming old enough and interested enough to read the stories for myself – I realized that my Sunday School teachers had left out some of the best parts! For instance, in the story of Noah and the ark, no Sunday school teacher had ever bothered to read to me the part, where after landing the ark and celebrating with his family – Noah proceeds to drink too much and lay “uncovered” in his tent for all the world, including his children, to see. When sharing with me the story of Moses and his leading God’s people out of Egypt – not one time had anyone informed me that Moses had actually killed a guy before he left Egypt the FIRST time. And Daniel and the lions den, well did you know that the ENTIRE families of those responsible for Daniel’s being tossed down there actually wound up being thrown in after he got out? No? I didn’t either.
Now I understand that, we were young, and my teachers were probably informed to keep the whole thing PG. It makes sense – you don’t want to traumatize young children with the ideas of death and depravity. But with that said, I believe there does come a point at which the WHOLE story should be told. After all it did make it into the Bible – and I think there’s a reason.
Just for arguments sake, let’s use the story of Moses. Saved by God at birth, rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses lives a life of privilege. Eventually he “leaves” Egypt and becomes a shepherd, only to be greeted by God in an unconsumed burning bush, and instructed to go back to Egypt and ask Pharaoh to “let his people go.” Now sure, as a kid, I understood the fear one would have to conquer to walk into the home of the most powerful person around, and ask them to do something that they didn’t want to. I asked my parents and teachers for things all the time, and was often afraid that they would be less than agreeable. Conquering your fear is an important thing to teach kids, and I’m sure this story has helped more than its fair share.
But the older we get, the more complex our emotions become – if you need proof, just watch the movie Inside Out. Some of those fairly complex emotions that Middle and High School students are just starting to deal with are things like; lack of self-esteem, regret, guilt and shame. Wouldn’t you know it, these are, I think, the same emotions Moses is dealing with when that fiery bush beckons him back to Egypt. He feels guilty. He is ashamed of what he had done. He doesn’t believe that God would EVER want to use someone like him to accomplish His plans or purposes. And so, at first, he says no. No God, not me. You don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know who I really am. You should probably send someone else. Haven’t you ever felt that way? Under qualified and unprepared? I think we all have.
That’s what makes God’s choice and insistence of using Moses so incredible and inspiring. Turns out God DOES know Moses’ past and his misgivings, and He chooses to use Him anyway. In fact, He basically says that it makes Moses the perfect person to go, because, while the people and Pharaoh won’t expect or accept anything from HIM, they will be able to see that all the impressive things that follow are directly from an all-powerful God. His failures allow God to be featured. Don’t you think that’s a part of the story our teenagers need to hear? Don’t you think it’s something most ADULTS could use as well? My history in ministry tells me the answer is a resounding, YES.
So what I am REALLY advocating here? Am I making a plea to endanger the innocence of young children, with all the gory details of Scripture? No, I am not. I have a six year old son, who I will attempt to keep as pure and undefiled as I can for a VERY long time. But what I am asking is, can’t we (the collective of God’s church) do better? Can’t we have a plan to, and make a point of, revisiting these stories and beginning to include the details as they become more appropriate? Will it take more work? Sure. Will it sully the name of some of our “heroes” from Sunday school days. Absolutely. But it will also make God’s Word living and alive to an entirely different audience in a more complete and relevant way. It will give them the WHOLE story and allow them to see, that the people God used back then, aren’t really any different than the people He wants to use right now.
When I turned 12, my church handed me a Bible during a service and “graduated” me from Sunday School. It was a valiant effort at being nice. What I wish they would’ve done, and what many people in my life eventually did, was sit me down, and fill me in on the whole story. God’s story. That’s the story that changed my life. It’s the story I’ve read and re-read for years. It’s the story I’ve dedicated my life to telling. My hope is that in telling it to you – God might just use His story to show you He can use you too.