Posts Tagged ‘articulate


Through the eyes of an eight-year-old

It probably shouldn’t have, but his question caught me completely off guard.

There I was, innocently watching my grandson play baseball with his team there in the steamy heat of southwestern Louisiana this past weekend. I was there sitting on the bleachers on the third-base side, squirming to get comfortable on the hard aluminum surface. At the same time I was yelling words of encouragement (and OK, occasionally politely questioning an umpiring decision or two). When out of the clear blue, an eight-year-old seated nearby pointed to my chest and asked, “What’s that?”

I looked down and saw that the cross I usually wear on the inside of my shirt was hanging there on the outside. 

“It’s a cross,” I smiled and replied, confident I had satisfied his curiosity. 

I guess not. Still staring intently at my ornamentation, he persisted. “What’s it for?” he asked then.

That question was the stumper. 

Had this been an adult quizzing me… say, another one of the parents or grandparents sitting there in the bleachers… I would have been happy to respond by explaining that the cross reminded me of the way faith in Christ is a central part of my life, adding the explanation that the two axes of the cross symbolize both the VERTICAL as well as the HORIZONTAL nature of God’s love.

There may then have ensued a thoughtful theological discussion of faith, doubt, heaven, hell, sin, salvation, brokenness, healing, and the demise of the designated hitter.  (Remember… this was a baseball tournament after all). 

But what do I say to this eight-year-old to explain what the cross is “for”?

As I struggled to articulate the cross’ purpose in a way that made sense to him, a loud cheer went up from the crowd and we both turned to see what had happened. It was a bases-loaded triple which sent the home team into a raucous impromptu celebration and made me temporarily forget the kid’s question.

As you can see though, it stayed lodged somewhere in my brain long enough to prompt a Russelling.

Had our conversation continued, I imagined it going a little something like this:

KID:     What’s it for?

ME:      Well, it reminds me that I am a Christian.

KID:     (you know how they do) What’s a Christian? And why do you have to be reminded?

ME:      A Christian is someone who follows – or I should say, tries their best to follow – Jesus and do the things he said we should do. And honestly, I need to be reminded because I regularly get confused about who I am supposed to follow. 

KID:     You mean “follow” like on Instagram?

ME:      No. Not really. More like “follow” when you are hiking through a forest, and you need to follow someone who knows where they are going. THAT kind of “follow.”

KID:     So, if Jesus knows where he is going, why would you forget to follow him? That seems pretty dumb. 

ME:      Hang on there, sport. Be careful who you’re calling dumb. I’m old enough to be your grandfather! But yes, when you put it that way, you are absolutely right. It really is pretty dumb to follow someone who is NOT“… the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6, NRSV) like Jesus is. Except you know what? I do it all the time. And so do lots of other people my age who should really know better.

KID:     OK. I see. But why is it in that shape? That thing just looks like two sticks put together.

ME:      Has anyone ever told you you’re very observant? That shape – which is called a cross… you know, kind of like a crossroad – is the shape of something in his time that was very BAD that Jesus turned into something very GOOD. That shape reminds me that if I am a Christian, that is what I am supposed to do, too. It also reminds me I can’t do that – the “changing something bad into something good” thing – on my own. I need Jesus to help me with that.

KID:     Well, OK then. I guess you really do need to wear that cross, don’t you. 

ME:      Yes, I really do. 

KID:     Good talk, gramps. So glad I asked the question. Now… can we please get back to the game? 

I think the reason this conversation stuck with me is because of what it called to mind. It helped me remember the need to articulate my faith in the simplest terms possible. Some of us (using myself as a prime example) can get all twisted up into elaborate Boy Scout knots with our theology and apologetics as we try to come up with new and different ways of explaining who Jesus is and why we have decided to follow him. 

But when it comes right down to it, shouldn’t our faith be simple enough for a baseball-focused eight-year-old to understand?

I think so.

Abundant blessings;

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