Last week was VBS week, which felt like “The Great Exhale”
after 15 months of holding our Covid breaths.
The halls rang with laughter, with shouts, with songs, and even with some meltdown tears.
Creativity abounded during craft time, games were hard fought, hugs were traded, hands were flying—sort of in rhythm—during the song time. And through it all the smiles and laughter.
Les and I taught, with 3-year-olds through fifth graders in the same groups. It would be lying to say it wasn’t a challenge to try to communicate the good news of Jesus in that environment. But the smiles, the laughter, the Bible verses shouted at the top of their lungs, made it worth trying.
Joy reigned supreme.
Our VBS missions project was to raise money for a training center for the E.C. Church in Nepal. To incentivize the kids we had a boys-versus-girls contest to see who could raise the most money. Alex and Sophia, two young adults from our church, agreed to a plan to further spur the kids on: If the boys brought in the most funds, Alex would get to dump a bucket of green slime on Sophia. If the girls won, Sophia would slime Alex.
The kids went crazy, even performing chores for money and emptying piggy banks, to support (or rescue) their gender’s slimer. By the end of Friday, the 80 kids in attendance had donated over $1200 to help the church in Nepal! That’s an average of $15 a child—and when you consider how many were families with several kids participating in VBS, that was quite the commitment (from kids and parents)!
In the end, the boys won, and Sophia submitted to be slimed. You can enjoy the video and listen to the cheers and laughter of the kids here. It was glorious!
As the week ended and my cheeks muscles hurt from smiling, it occurred to me that children live in an almost perpetual state of delight. The well-crafted train on the stage belting steam, the camel that kept appearing on the train tracks in our teaching room, their own craft creations, being with their friends, popsicles, the promise of a body slimed—it all thrilled them. Laughter was easy, smiles abundant.
At what age do we lose that wonder and delight? And why?
I have no definitive answer, but I’m guessing somewhere along the line as obligations and expectations—doing well in school so you can get into a good college so you can get a good job so that you have enough of an income to get married and raise a family so that you can start to put expectations on your own children . . . —laughter starts to fade. Perhaps as we grow we begin to care too much about what others think—we don’t know if it’s cool to take delight in simple and silly things. And we lose the joy of seeing the world with fresh eyes, with wonder at it’s beauty, with letting our imaginations take us to a world where a cardboard camel can force a pretend train to stop.
See with young eyes again.
Whatever the cause of the loss of delight in our lives, the VBS kids are an encouraging me to laugh more, to notice the little things, to enjoy every type of life without worrying what others think. Spending time with children (even watching videos of children) can be a good start to recovering our own sense of delight in the world around us.
Life will still have hard times. We still have responsibilities and obligations. But I want to live this quote from Joy Bethea:
“I choose to see the world with a swirl of curiosity, awe, and delight—
so I can accept beautiful gifts and difficult struggles as part of a process I can’t perfectly understand.”