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TRULY I TELL YOU...

Updated: Dec 20, 2019


by David Gustafson:

The assignment: to write an article explaining how we don’t truly understand God’s Word until we apply His Word to our lives—how it’s in the “doing” that helps us understand. My wife and I volunteer regularly at the elementary school where our daughter, Davie Jenkins, teaches first grade.  While there, several moments have tugged at my heart.  The following illustrates one of those occasions: Twenty-two first-graders exited Mrs. Allen's classroom in a more or less single file fashion, parading across the Daybreak Elementary School Campus, to attend art class.  At their arrival, the art teacher, Mrs. Ryan, directed her charges to gather around her. Expectant faces turned towards her as she explained the assignment.  She then instructed the children to collect paper, pencils, colored markers and a magazine from which to find a picture to copy a pastoral scene.  Hub-bub ensued as youngsters ran, "stampeding" every direction, to collect art supplies to be used for the next forty minutes. After a few moments of gathering resources, the children set about portraying their bucolic scene. All, that is, except Lilia. Lilia, an adorable, wee girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, for whom her mama loves and takes great care, was dressed in pink pastels coordinated with purple, including white tennis shoes. Her small, heart-shaped face flattered pink-toned spectacles. As the other children scurried to locate art supplies, they inadvertently cut in front of and around, jostling and bumping Lilia, who then stood silently alone, perplexed, unmoving, surveying the commotion. By the time the other children were seated and sketching scenery, she hadn't found a blank paper. Finally, as I watched from across the classroom, she located paper and pencil and found a seat, though she continued to observe the other children without attempting to draw, both of her hands, palms down, rested on the table, a faraway, mystified expression clouding her face. Laying the point of her pencil on the paper, she attempted her illustration but when the pencil was put to the paper, she became distracted and glanced around the room. Then, with little shoulders slumping and hands dropping to her sides, her gaze turned downward away from the blank sheet of paper as though studying the floor. The other children prattled on; laughing amongst themselves, talking and sketching, while Lilia sat quietly by herself. As her lips quivered, tears welled in the corner of blue eyes, trickling down her tiny cheeks.  Making my way through the crowd, I stood next to her and asked if I could help her find a magazine. She said, "Yes" with a quiet voice, moistness splashing off her cheeks. We chatted.  I discovered her love for horses, so together we located a picture of a horse, part of a farm landscape. She penciled the outline of the mare but momentum slowed then ceased as she looked around at the other students' "noisily" drawing. Her small frame sagging, tears found their way down both sides of her face, trickling onto the table. This precious child, caught-away, a little lost soul, had my tears brimming too! I was inclined to scoop her up and hug her (however, the school frowns on that), so instead, I sat down next to her and asked if she might outline her pencil-drawn horse with a brown marker? "No," she said simply, with barely audible sadness. "Could ‘I’ use the brown marker to outline the horse you've drawn?" I asked as brightly as I could muster. She nodded yes, so I traced her horse along with three of its four legs.  To get a better look, she leaned against me. Glancing down at her sideways I noticed she was peeking up at me too, curiosity written on her face, tears drying. "Would you like to use the marker for the fourth leg on your horse, Lilia?" I said, motioning toward her picture. She nodded, the corners of her mouth turned up slightly, a shy smile brightening her face. Grasping the marker, she shaped the fourth leg coloring her horse in brown, then its mane, tail, and ears. During the next thirty minutes, her hands crafted an idyllic scene on eight and a half by eleven inch paper including a yellow sun, numerous multi-colored flowers, birds in flight, green grass, a painted-fence, red barn, and blue sky adorned with puffy, white clouds. Without further “interference” from me, taking a backseat as it were, I was touched by the child's bearing as well as the image on her paper, both finding inspiration! The course of her tears still visible, Lilia smiled as her illustration took shape. Near the end of class, along with her classmates, she presented her creation to Mrs. Nelson. Never have I appreciated a lovelier work of art. I smiled too! At the time, I was reminded of what Jesus told His disciples:  “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:2-4 NIV) And become like children - Lilia’s change in demeanor brought about with my help (my “doing”), an adult she was hardly acquainted with, the innocent, trusting faith of a child provided me with clarity. Very young children are, to a great extent, without ambition, pride, or arrogance.  They are teachable, their hearts and minds tender.  By requiring his disciples to be like them, Jesus did not intend to prompt an opinion about the innate moral character of little ones, but in these respects they/we must become like them.   After art class, I accompanied her and the other children back to their first-grade classroom.  The ten-minutes I spent with Lilia was three years ago. Taller now, Lilia is in fourth grade, and on occasion, our paths cross in the hallway or during recess, and when she does notice me she smiles, says "hi," and flourishes a slight friendly wave in my direction.

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