Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Whom Shall I Fear?

Elliot's adjustment to organized education is going as well as can be expected, or so I've been told... He seems to enjoy peuterspeelzaal (pre-school), and he seems to be learning a lot. He comes home singing new songs (like "Tikke Takke Regen"), raving about new toys (such as the animal jar, with the yellow lid and the yellow giraffes inside), and proudly displaying class projects (i.e. the latest fingerpainting masterpiece)...

But there's parts of school that are still difficult for him -- primarily when Mommy or Daddy leaves after dropping him off. Fear, sadness, anxiety -- these departures entail tears, pleas, and (occasionally) tantrums. Some days it's just token tears, almost as if he seeks to display just enough sadness to let us know of his love for us and doesn't want us to be offended by any kind of preoccupation upon our departure. Other days, though, departure is brutal and heart-wrenching (both for child and for parent). Of course the teachers tell us that even on the worst of days, he generally settles down after a few minutes.

But I must confess that I hate the bad days -- as much as (if not more than) my son.

Elliot had one of those days last week. Pawing and clawing, panting and ranting for his mother as she walked out of the classroom. Sobs of fear and sadness shaking his small frame even as he tried to resume his classroom activities. Even the teachers confessed that it was a worse day than usual. Nothing seemed to console Elliot... until he discovered his own solution.

In between sobs, peering out at his teachers through the tears, he asked his teacher: "Mevrouw Wil, can we pray right now?" She responded by saying -- with typical Dutch directness -- that she didn't believe in God, but that Elliot was welcome to go ahead and pray for himself if he wanted to. So Elliot collected himself, bowed his head for a moment, and then came up singing (and dancing) to the words of an oft-sung worship chorus from the Zolder: "The Lord is my light and my salvation! Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear?" And for the rest of the morning, Elliot was fine. No more tears. No more fears. He truly realized that there is no one or no thing to fear, when the Lord is one's light, one's salvation, one's stronghold... And in the process, Marci and I realized the power and potential of our son.

I'm sure there are some who would say that we've simply brain-washed our little boy -- systematically hypnotized him into mimicking our pattern of belief in the same way that any child can be taught how to use the toilet or say "please" and "thank you." And who am I, really, to say what's happening on the spiritual level with any other human being -- much less a three-and-a-half year old? But knowing Elliot's natural disposition toward anxiety and fear, and personally understanding the power and presence of God from my own life... I have to wonder if there's something to his desperate prayer and his sudden and joyous epiphany. I think any rationale human being would have to wonder the same thing.

Naturally, we learned about the experience through a blow-by-blow explanation by Mevrouw Wil herself. She even mimicked the song in her husky Dutch-accented alto. Of course, she dutifully reminded us that she herself doesn't believe in God. But she said that something definitely happened... and that something definitely made her morning easier. As a parent, it can be scary to realize that Elliot is the only child from a Christ-centered home -- among an atheist teacher, a Muslim teacher, perhaps ten classmates from Muslim homes, and one child from a Hindu household -- but really, when you think about it, why should we be scared? Elliot's environment gives him an opportunity to understand faith on a much more personal level and with a much greater potential to impact others for the Kingdom of God. What could possibly threaten Elliot beyond the extent of God's protection? Why should any of us be anxious? Whom shall I fear?


At 8:38 AM, Blogger Naomi said...

"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise..." Psalm 8.2

It brings tears to my eyes, to think of your son being a light in Amsterdam. How beautiful! It is also an example to me, his literally child-like faith, reminds me that my fears will be calmed and overcome when I focus on Jesus.

i have nothing to fear as i leave my familiar surroundings again, and step foot on Amsterdam soil!

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shared this story with the Berean Institute Board Meeting last night. It wsa a great source of encouragment!! WOW!


At 6:54 PM, Blogger Sander Chan said...

Hallo Eric & Marci,

Ik had hem natuurlijk al eerder gehoord, maar ik zie nu beter de relevantie van het deze geschiedenis.
Ik ben trots op Elliot, of eigenlijk op God die zo tot kleine kinderen spreekt, hun troost en blij maakt.
Op Clingendael leer ik ook te vertrouwen op God te midden van mensen die Hem niet kennen. Dat is soms erg moeilijk. Des te blijer ben ik dat jullie Elliot opvoeden en hem leren altijd op God te vertrouwen.

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Maura Grunkelmeier said...

It makes me think too...how much better would our "work" day be if we took a lesson from Elliot. When the anxiety starts to take over and people are getting upset...to simply say, "Can I take a moment to pray?"

Such a simple act, yet truly it requires great boldness sometimes in the adult world...

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Children definitely have things to teach us... A friend of mine has observed that it may even be God's grace that Elliot has a natural tendency toward fear, anxiety, and insecurity. That is to say, if a kid as intelligent, charming, creative, and beautiful as Elliot were to also posess a high degree of natural independence and fearlessness -- he would basically have no felt need for God in his life. But because he can often be scared and clingy, he is naturally presented with a need for God's light, salvation, and stronghold...

And I think Elliot's dependence on God is a lesson for all of us. Our weaknesses are often the best occasion for our relationship with God to build. Indeed, we can be thankful for our vulnerable points!


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