On the walk to school a few months ago my five-year-old son, Samuel, asked me a question. Samuel is my second born, sandwiched between my talkative oldest and the attention-grabbing youngest. A classic middle child, he usually keeps a low profile, preferring to keep his thoughts to himself. On this day, though, he surprised me by letting me know what was going on inside his head. “Is that the cross Jesus died on?” he asked quietly, pointing to the rooftop steeple of the local Methodist Church.
Realizing what a big question came from such a small child, I blinked back sudden tears.
We walk by the church (and the cross) every day, but he had never mentioned it before. I wondered how many days he had seen that cross and wondered if a man died up there before he asked me about it. I changed the subject. I didn’t say any more, in part, because it was hard know what else to say. As a pastor who has written on children and faith formation for years, one might assume that I would have had an easier time with this moment when it came up as a parent, but I was caught off guard, and the question pointed to a deeper one: how can we talk about the cross with children in ways that are developmentally appropriate? This, I realized is an even more profound challenge when it’s your own small child. … read more