Member Reflections: “Stonings and Goldfish” by Angela Collins

At Highland Baptist Church, when a baby is children-choir-goldfish-storydedicated, her church family promises to “tell her the stories of Jesus and teach her the songs of our faith.” I like that—and, actually, those of us who officially teach our church’s children in Bible Study and Children’s Choir take our pledge quite seriously, but sometimes things get complicated, like this past Sunday.

In our preschool Godly Play session, the story for the first Sunday in the church’s Ordinary Season was the story of Saul’s conversion. Just to fill you in, Saul does some pretty terrible things before he “sees the Light.” Things that 4 and 5 year old boys seem to take great delight in for some reason. (I know that sounds so sexist, but, I’m sorry, folks, it’s true.)

As background, the “Godly Play” program that we teach on Sunday mornings is designed for the storyteller to simply tell the story. No interpretation is offered. No great lesson pulled from obscurity. It’s all about trusting the process. (Something that us Highland folks can get a little uppity about.)

So anyway I was trusting the process until I got to the point where “Saul” was holding the coats of those who stoned St. Stephen and about five little boys’ eyes lit up. It had never occurred to my boys that light sabers were not actually needed in a fight to the death, but that just a few rocks would do the same thing. In a move that goes against “Godly Play” practice, I very quickly connected the dots that stoning was very, very, wrong and that Saul actually saw the Light and changed his evil ways. So much for just “telling the stories.”

So with that still on my mind, I couldn’t help but smile when on Sunday evening, Ashley began our children’s music program for the adult congregation with the disclaimer that their first number would NOT be a song of our faith.

At this point, the same kids who were more interested in Stephen’s stoning than the life-changing light on the Road to Damascus, stood with big grins and started singing enthusiastically about a goldfish. In the verses, the goldfish tried taking a shower, brushing his teeth, even riding a bicycle, always discovering and re-discovering by the chorus, “Wait a minute. I’m a goldfish. I should be swimming, swimming, swimming.” Truthfully, it probably doesn’t appear in any Christian Children’s Chorus books, but I think it could.

As I mentioned earlier, yesterday was the beginning of a long Ordinary Season (or the Growing Season, as all the cool kids call it.) It is my favorite season, which actually none of my preschool friends agreed with it. They’re more about purple and white seasons. I mean, I get that, too. Not a lot of glory in the Growing Season. No gifts or Easter eggs either.

Growing is hard work, and, honestly, I’m thankful for this time in the calendar, where we can wrestle with stories about Saul and the stoning of Stephen, where we can try out some new songs or ideas. Where we can work just like goldfish in trying to figure out what God has created us to be.

These next few months of the Growing Season give us all a chance to practice and process what we have learned—and when we get too far off track—we can remind each other just like  the goldfish “Wait a minute. I’m a child of God. I should be loving, loving, loving.”

So, I guess in the end, Ashley and I kept our promise to our young friends. The vows we took didn’t say the stories would be easy or that the songs couldn’t be about a bike-riding goldfish.

Thanks be to God.