Have you noticed the super powers small children wield?
I was riding the NYC subway one morning, when the doors opened and into the car walked a little child.
She was maybe 2.
Instantly, all of us—these defended New Yorkers, all avoiding eye contact, all guarding our space—were transformed. We smiled at her. At her mother. At each other.
Her gentleness disarmed us. Barriers of race and age and status vanished.
She changed everything.
When people asked Jesus, “Who’s the greatest in your Kingdom?” Jesus showed them a little child and said, “Become like this little child.”
It’s not always all about what we teach children.
It’s about what they teach us.
I’ve learned that from writing for children. Writing for children keeps you honest. You have to dig deeper. Work harder. Understand it better. Your job is to distill—to take the profound and make it simple enough for a child to understand.
When I was writing THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE, I couldn’t rely on jargon. A little child has no concept of what sin is, for instance. I had to find other ways to describe it. I wrote that: sin is not just about breaking the rules, it’s breaking God’s heart; it’s like poison that makes your heart sick and stops it from working properly; it’s like running away from God and hiding in the shadows.
Writing for children demands nothing short of excellence.
The funny thing is—if you write with the excellence that children deserve you reach everyone. C S Lewis said: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”
Excellence, it turns out, is the most inclusive thing.
THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE has broken out of the boundaries typical for a children’s bible storybook—read by college students, theologians, pastors, couples; read in schools, prisons, old people’s homes. (It’s so popular with adults that we have published their own edition: THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU.)
I think it has something to do with that place inside of us all that remains a child still, the place God loves to speak to us—the place where we are undefended, humble, open to wonder. Open him. The place that tiny child spoke to us all, in that NYC subway car that morning.
In THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE I captured the plotline of the Bible. As adults when do we ever hear that plotline? Even if we go to church regularly, we may never hear the whole story in one sitting.
But when you distill the story down so that you can read it in one sitting, immediately it is startling. Because most of us think we know what the Bible is about—and it’s not good. We think it’s a book of rules you follow so God will love you. Or a book of heroes you copy so God will love you.
But it’s none of those things.
It’s most of all a Story.
The Story Of a God who breaks into History and comes down to rescue his children. A God who moves heaven and earth to be near them, to love them—though it would cost him everything.
The Story of a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. The Story of a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves.
The Bible is simply this: THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU.
And I don’t know anyone—young or old—who doesn’t need to hear that story.
Sally Lloyd-Jones is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include: Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing, a children’s devotional which won the ECPA Christian Book of The Year award in adult inspiration, and The Jesus Storybook Bible, now available in a format for adults with a new design and title, The Story of God's Love for You. Sally also has a new picture book coming this spring, Baby Wren and the Great Gift.