How does a Young Child Reflect God’s Image?

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It is my privilege to worship regularly young children and these experiences have caused me to reflect on how a child reflects God’s image uniquely when compared to adults.  Just as men and women were created differently but both in God’s image so that we can see two examples of God’s infinite character, I believe children reflect certain aspects of God’s character adults would struggle to naturally emulate.  Obviously children interact with our world and with God differently than adults, but how?

How do young children uniquely reflect God's image?
How do young children uniquely reflect God’s image?

I came across this article on Renovare written by Jeanette Fernandez where she said the following:

“I recently heard a definition of art as taking what is on hand and creating something of beauty and/or usefulness. This seems very familiar, like the creation story? God the original creator, made this amazing and beautiful world out of nothing. Not only that he made us, useful and beautiful in his image as well. I know this most clearly from children. Consider the well known story of a child receiving a gift and tossing it aside to play with the box it came in; taking what is on hand and creating something of beauty and/or usefulness.

The younger the child is, the more profound their ability to express who they are in God’s image by simply being themselves. I’ve taught preschoolers for a very long time, I especially like them because I am better able to flow with their constant creativity. A spoon becomes a baby when wrapped in a washcloth; taking what is on hand and creating something of beauty and/or usefulness. A stick becomes a sword, gun, any weapon of choice, (it’s just a boy thing), taking what is on hand and creating something of beauty and/or usefulness. My daughter put a boot on her head when she was around 3 years old, in her mind she looked like a giraffe, what a great expression of imagination. This ability to create is part of who we are in God’s image. We are all made this way and in our ability to be creative, we are only limited by our own lack of imagination and self-consciousness. Pablo Picasso says,”

Wow!  I want to see children like she does!  Children freely create, and what’s more they actually like what they make.  They need time and space to develop this creativity and worship God in this way.

I also came across a reference to  Katherine Copsey‘s essay ‚ What Is
a Child?‛  In a work  by Dan Brewster entitled Children, Church, and Mission where she addresses the question, What is a Child?  She says:

“What, then, are the qualities, which naturally tumble out of children, which Jesus
encourages us to learn from when He urges us to ‘become like a child’? In other words, what characterizes a child’s spirituality—those qualities which a child carries within by virtue of having been made in God’s image? She answers her question with this summary:

Openness:

  • To nature—children exhibit a sense of awe and wonder
  • To feelings—children tend to be direct, in touch with their feelings
  • To others—children naturally tend to have an open, welcoming nature

Ability to be Present:

  •  Children tend to live in the here and now and think in concrete terms.
  • Children have a gift for perception—what we really mean, how we feel.
  • Children tend to accept things at face value, taking as much as is needed for a given time.

Uncomplicated:

  • Children can find belief easy and uncomplicated; they do not need to analyze.
  • Children can find trust easy if they are brought up within a trustworthy environment.
  • Children have simple, basic emotional and physical needs.

Nothing can destroy the fact of that createdness in God’s likeness, but there are many ways in which the sense of transcendence can be lost. Copsey says, We may simply be unaware of it, we may fail to recognize it and therefore fail to nurture it. We may rubbish it, crush it, clutter it; we may allow it to be lost under the weight of a materialistic, consumerist culture.

This happens, she says, if :

  • We give children the message that feelings are wrong.
  • We offer them environments that have no beauty, which are soul-less, and fail to help them discover a sense of awe and wonder in what lies around them.
  • We destroy their sense of trust, openness, and their perception through various forms of abuse and insincerity.
  • We fail to meet their basic emotional and physical needs.
  • We make belief too cognitive, too complicated, failing to recognize the value of  affective learning.
  • We kill their imagination and their sense of fantasy.

So how do our home and Christian Education environments reflect the observations of Fernandez and Copsey?  So often, we teach children about God by telling them about God or showing them how they are supposed to respond to God rather than really providing ways for them to experience God and then helping them interpret their experiences.

What is the connection between imagination and worship that we can learn from children?

How do our learning environments reflect how children reflect God’s image?

What can we do to teach children according to how God made them rather than merely entertaining them?

So MUCH to think about from these two articles! Mind. Blown.  I am currently reading Working in the Reggio Way by Julianne P. Wurm and the reading has challenged me to examine each aspect of my teaching and environment in relation to what my practice says about my view of a child.  If I truly see a child as a unique reflection of God, what do I need to change about my practice so their spiritual formation can flourish?

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