Story as Catechism

Part 1: Blank Canvases

Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.” – G.K Chesterton

If God were to give you a series of blank canvases and instruct you to fill them with images of how you see the world in light of his blessings, what would you paint? How? Would you plan it out? Would you learn how to draw so your trees were trees?

What if He told you these panels would hang in your house in heaven? Your walls will not adorn Rembrandts or Van Gogh’s, but your own works. What kind of care would you take?

Well if you have children, God has given you blank canvases. He has given you the opportunity to paint your heritage. You wouldn’t wing-it when painting panels God gave you for your mansion in heaven would you? You would give it serious thought. And so we have to be people with inquisitive but decided-minds. Minds of conviction. You wouldn’t just start slapping on the paint; you’d learn how to draw. There will be no Dada‘s in God’s house.

You need to be able to compact a three dimensional object in a two dimensional space. This requires skill, practice and thoughtfulness. When your child looks around them, they should see, not the world of the modernist, humanist or atheist, but the ordered world of the living God. Catechizing, formally and informally, is how you draw on your child’s mind. Who made you? God did. Why did he make you? To glorify him and enjoy him. But formal catechism is merely the sketch, the skeleton, the framework. Stories are also catechisms.

Stories are the palate that give your drawings color and depth which brings the art to life. Your time with your children is the brush. Is it firm or limp? Is it steady with a constant application or does it spread the paint randomly and unevenly? Sketching and painting are skills developed by a lot of practice. Shaping your child’s mind with stories also requires a lot of time and practice.

Do you fill those blank canvases with the glory, magic, color, beauty, mystery and wonder of God’s world? Do you soak them in the deep ocean of his word ? Are your colors drab? Or are they full of rich reds and greens and whites of the slain dragon at the feet of our savior? Are they full of light and warmth like the beauty of the first kiss you shared with your spouse? Are they robust like the feel of earth between your fingers and the anticipation of tasting your own carrots, grown in the ground you tilled? Would it be black and white? Or shaded with the trials that accompany God’s covenant? With the dilemmas of war and the executions of the wicked? With a happy, glorious ending, where everything is put right?

We must send our children through the looking glass of story, to travail the perilous realm and return to see this world anew; brighter, more complex and richer than anything they imagined; more intricate and alive than reason and modernity allow. This is one of the most important functions you have as a parent.

What is magical about the universal law of gravity (the attraction that the Earth or another astronomical object exerts on an object on or near its surface through motion)? God made man in His own image, to exert creativity and dominion over the earth.  We overcome the universal laws of physics to go to the moon. Fallen men are reborn to be the church of God in a fallen world-being-made-new. God made man to defy that which holds planets in place, for His glory. God made Man capable of defying the elemental forces, with the power to obliterate cities and to build them.

Reread the story of pharaoh’s priests playing magic tricks with Moses. This is a story that reflects the fundamental difference in worldviews concerning the purpose and source of magic and power over the elemental forces. Why does Mose’s snake eat the court priests’? Is this magic? How is Moses able to wield magic and why is it more powerful than the court-priests’? Telling these stories to our children teaches them proper typology and makes your children’s life stories more vivid, more Christ-like. It is the source for raising dragon slayers. It is the source of power over the goblin of sin crouching at the door, who waits to devour your children. They know the goblins are there and it requires more than rout memorization of systematic theology to defeat them. They need to wield the sword of God’s word; the sword of God’s story.

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