BY HANNAH STAPLETON
I love preschoolers. I really truly do. There’s something magical about those years from 3-5. The kids are starting to discover their own personalities, know how they fit into the world around them, and live with so much abandon that it makes my heart stop a bit.
I started serving in the preschool in Grace Kids this month (April), but before I moved here, I served in the preschool at my old church in Cincinnati for two years. Preschool seemed like a safe choice—I have four younger siblings, so I’m pretty familiar with what preschoolers are like, there wouldn’t be the drama that comes as kids get older, and I’m a sucker for craft time. It was an easy pick for me.
What I didn’t anticipate was the way it was going to radically change my life.
When I started in the preschool at my old church, I didn’t know that I was about to enter a two-year period that was going to severely test my faith. I was starting a masters’ program where the faculty didn’t support me in any way. I was living alone for the first time, fully moved out of my parent’s home. My boyfriend and I were doing serious long distance after only being apart during the summer and breaks for the past three years. My family relationships were about to implode and change in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.
Those two years involved a lot of crying out to God, asking Him why all of this was happening at once, why I felt so alone, why He couldn’t just sweep in and make things right. I spent those years deeply aware of how broken things were around me and all I wanted, all I prayed for, was that those things could be put right.
God spoke to me through my preschoolers.
When I went in every Sunday to see them, there were at least five that were ready with a smile and a hug. They didn’t always remember me from the week before, but would chat with me about what they were doing later that day, their favorite color, or ask for a story. They opened their very small selves up to me and my loneliness.
When we would go to worship, I was reminded of the very simple and core facts of my faith—Jesus loves me and wants to spend time with me. Jesus can use me. Jesus care about what’s going on in my life. Watching my little group of kiddos sing, with meaning, Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good, Father,” brought tears to my eyes every single time. Out of the mouths of children comes truth.
During our group time, they would share what they learned about the lesson. One Easter service, a group of 20 kids gathered around their leader as she prompted them through the story of the cross—small voices affirming that Jesus died for us because He loved us.
And at that time, I couldn’t handle much more truth than that. Those kids didn’t know it, but they kept me close to God, reminding me each week (when I couldn’t bear to attend the adult service, when I was so afraid of going to service and breaking even more) that my Jesus loved me.
The first Sunday of April was my first Sunday in Grace Kids. I was a bit nervous—preschoolers are great, but they can be a wild card—but quickly got thrown into things and found myself at a table with 8 kiddos gathered around. We played a game, went to worship where they heard that Jesus wants to spend time with them, and then came back to our table for a craft. As they colored their little booklets, I asked them how they can spend time with Jesus. They started talking over each other, quickly and loudly:
“Jesus died on the cross for our sins!”
“Jesus made everything in this room!”
“Jesus made the sun and the sky!”
“Jesus made my puppy and my little brother!”
I was giddy with delight. Preschoolers get it. I love serving in preschool because they always remind me what Jesus meant when He told us “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3. Having faith like a child looks like opening your heart up to be hospitable to others. Never forgetting that Jesus loves you, even when everything around you is a mess. Exuberant joy over small things.
May we all be a bit more like preschoolers.
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