You’re heard of “holy osmosis:” when worn-out parents unconsciously hope that their younger kids will just sort of absorb all they need to know about the Faith by tagging along to Mass with the family, hanging around with their well-catechized older siblings, living in a house with crucifixes on the wall, and wallowing around on the rug while everyone else says the rosary at night. That’s got to be good enough, right? You don’t really have to start from scratch with each kid, right?
No, you don’t . . . as long as you’re okay with your youngest kids growing up as some kind of paraCatholics, who have adopted some of the niftier aspects of the faith and blended it with whatever else makes sense to their scrambled little maniac brains. This is how you end up with Santeria; and this is how you end up with a kid who tries to cajole you into starting the brand new children’s Old Testament by saying: “Come on, come on, Mama. Read. Read. Come on. Start. ‘Once upon a time there was a farmer . . . ‘”
Farmer, eh? Looks like I ordered that Bible just in time. I mean, she’s not wrong. But I don’t think the kid was speaking allegorically about creation. I think she was getting God the Father mixed up with Old MacDonald.
So we’re starting from scratch one more time, beginning with “In the beginning . . . ” with one more kid. We are taking our time, and only reading a page or two at a time. Yesterday, we got up to the part where God told Adam and Eve that they could eat whatever they wanted, except for this one fruit, but they went ahead and ate it anyway.
My four-year-old gasped with horror, and her eyes got so big. Why did they do that, when God was taking such good care of them?
Is it possible? She’d never heard the story before — or at least she hadn’t heard it told properly, with compelling pictures and drama and the time to let the strangeness of it sink in. So I’m awfully glad that we’re reading it again, for her sake, and for mine, too. I needed to hear that gasp.
Holy osmosis is a danger for adults, too. We’ve heard these stories so many times before, it’s easy to assume that we’ve heard them as many times as we need to — that there’s nothing more to hear, nothing new to think about. We think we can keep running on the fuel we put in the tank long, long ago. Not so.
Our pastor is encouraging us to read the Bible cover to cover, starting right now. If you can, I encourage you to read it to a child. I know it sounds like a cat poster, but it really helps you to hear things afresh when you tell them to a child.
And find a Bible with good illustrations! The one I ordered is this out-of-print one, illustrated by the great Feodor Rojankovsky. The image at the top is from inside the covers. These pictures absolutely captivated me when I was young. Here are a few of the illustrations that really grabbed me, and still do:
Here’s Esther revealing to Ahasuerus that Haman was the one who plotted against her people:
I always thought the queen in this picture was my grandmother, which she kind of is.
Here’s Solomon letting the two mothers reveal themselves:
And the black and white illustrations are just as powerful. Here is God forming Eve out of Adam’s rib:
Extraordinary. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!