The free app displays over a couple dozen biblical stories that each read multiple slides of the text followed by interactive scenes where the characters and setting come to life and respond to touch. The pace of each story is controlled by the user, and can take between five and twenty minutes. The other day, having opened the app himself Aidan randomly chose the story titled “In the Garden: Jesus is arrested” which it says covers Matthew 26:31-75, and its parallel in John 18:1-8. Sitting there beside him on the couch, as I watched over his shoulder he listened to the narrative being read on the first slide before tapping on the interactive scene. The first slide read: “After they ate together, Jesus told his disciples, ‘Tonight, you will abandon Me.’ ‘Not me!’ said Peter, boldly. ‘I will never leave You, Jesus.’” Then as he tapped on the different characters in the scene, Aidan turned to me and with a look of concern on his face said something that I was not prepared to hear: “Jesus is sad, Daddy. Why is Jesus sad?” I’m not sure if his comment, in itself, was profound, or if it was just profound for me—the father of a perceptive three-year old—to hear.
Like I said, he picks up on all kinds of things—even those words or gestures we otherwise would rather he miss us say in the heat of the moment. So, it doesn’t surprise me that he would see the emotion displayed by Jesus on the screen—sullen, somber, sad. And yet, he noticed it enough—beyond all the other things that could’ve caught his attention on the frame—to point that out and ask me why it was the case. Do I think my son was pressing me to start a deep christological discussion on the communicatio idiomatum (the communication of attributes) between Jesus’ divinity and Jesus’ humanity? No (I mean the theology nerd deep within me can only hope, but not likely in the slightest chance). Nor do I believe my son (as great as his mother and I think he is) picked up on something others his age wouldn’t—granted he is more inundated with it than others his age. Children are perceptive—they watch, they see, they listen, they learn, and perhaps most confronting or compelling: they ask. These pieces are each and altogether crucial (and dare I say: praiseworthy) in the stepping stones of a child’s lifelong faith formation.
Here in a couple weeks Aidan will begin attending Sunday School for the first time ever. Knowing him, I’m fairly certain he will give his teachers a run for their volunteering. Some mornings he will likely be off and lethargic at best, and other mornings he might just see or hear something that tugs on his heartstrings, causes him to think, and moves him to point it out or ask a question. I hope, with both a father’s pride and a pastor’s enthusiasm, there are many opportunities for and occasions of perceptivity—for he and all his classmates. With that, I pray that we as teachers, parents, grandparents, fellow parishioners, and friends can both encourage this perceptivity of our children (and one another for that matter) and listen and learn from them so as to reinforce and shape our lifelong faith formation—both individually and corporately. Watch and listen; your child or someone else’s will point out or say something that amazes you and causes you to pause and think about it for yourself. The Holy Spirit is fast at work in the hearts and minds of our little ones. Do not stifle their questions or comments; but encourage and inspire their imaginations and wonderings. With a child’s perceptivity, the beginnings of a fruitful lifelong faith formation journey starts. Might we all be so blessed to witness and share in this amazing gift at work in our midst.