Earlier this week our big boy Elijah graduated from kindergarten.
Remembering how emotional I felt sending my little guy off to school for the very first time back in August, it was amazing to look back over the year, and see how much Elijah has grown and how God has been with him (and me) every step of the way.
Not only has Elijah flourished in a classroom environment, largely thanks to a wonderful teacher who encouraged his nonstop creativity and insatiable curiosity, but he has continually shared the love of God to those around him. Many people have wondered at our decision to send our child to public school to begin with, but from early on, God showed Himself faithful in keeping Elijah, and Elijah’s young faith gave him a boldness to proclaim Jesus in numerous ways throughout the year.
From dealing with the class “bully” with prayer and compassion (he has watched out for her, encouraged her, and prayed for her all year long) to inviting his teacher to church (she came), to spending a recess, on his own initiative, praying on the playground, to talking to his friends about Jesus, Elijah has used his time in school to learn…and to teach, reminding me (and others) of the power of simply living out our faith daily.
One of the most fascinating ways I can see this is through one of the coolest things his kindergarten teacher did with the kids over this year: a daily journal. It’s amazing to journey through the pages, seeing how his handwriting and writing have improved, how well his vocabulary has grown, and how good he has become at expressing himself, both with words and pictures. It also gives us a glimpse into what he was thinking about during his days. It is a precious treasure full of childlike randomness, humor, and sweetness.
A lot of his early entries are just random words he was learning, but he incorporated a lot about “Mom,” “Dad,” and “Josiah” from the get-go. Not long into the year, though, he has the sentence “Jesus loves me and Mom,” with a picture of one giant stick figure with a huge heart and two smaller stick people – Jesus, Mom, and Elijah (haha – sorry, hubby!). It was nothing flashy or meant to get attention. It was just him sharing what he knew and what he was thinking about that day. Later he also shared “I am in the Bible” (as in the Prophet Elijah, his favorite Bible story for obvious reasons), and later, “Quiz: Who is the baddest in the world? Devil!” (Haha.)
Of course, he had less “spiritual” entries to balance it out. There was “I love Mom # (hashtag). I love Dad # (hashtag)” (too much watching Mommy post on social media), and “I see a squirrel eating my head” (complete with a picture of a giant squirrel with teeth, chomping on a stickman’s head), and lots of references to various video games, Charlie Brown, and Star Wars. So, yeah, he’s still very much a 5-year-old boy, a 5-year-old boy who loves Jesus, but a 5-year-old boy.
As part of his end-of-the-year thank you gift for his teacher, Elijah decided to draw a picture of everyone in his kindergarten class for her on a piece of posterboard. Since Elijah is the creative type, he knew how he wanted to do it, and he only took a little direction from me when I helped him make sure he had a list of all the kids in his class and room to draw them, so that no one was left off accidentally. He spent three evenings working on his drawings, writing each person’s name with their stick person. He’d sprawl out on the kitchen floor with his pencil, markers, and list of names while I worked on dishes and dinner.
On the second night of work, I turned around to see him coloring a huge cross off to the side of the page, and I asked him,
He glanced up, then kept coloring, “That’s for God,” he answered as he wrote the letters G-O-D along the cross.
“I thought you were drawing the people in your class,” I questioned, thinking he was just getting bored with the huge task of drawing 24 different kids and getting a little off-task.
His answer was perfect: “Well, God IS in my class.”
I smiled at him and agreed, “Yeah, you’re right. He is. He’s the most important person in that classroom.”
Watching him draw out a picture of God and then Jesus on his classroom poster, I was overwhelmed, realizing that this little boy – he gets it. Deep down and boldly out loud, he knows that God is with him, that God loves him and everyone else, that God wants him to love everyone else, that God is his source and hope, and that God answers prayer.
And while some of his outspokenness and confidence comes from his personality, it is nice to see, over and over again, that what we’re teaching him at home through devotionals, Bible stories and songs, and trying to model for him through our every day lives, is solidifying his foundation in Christ. What he’s receiving every Sunday in Children’s Church from his Children’s Pastors and teachers and throughout the week from being around all of his grandparents and family is strengthening and growing his faith.
It makes me think of the scriptures in Ephesians 4,
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
I don’t know what calling God has for Elijah as he grows, but Elijah is already letting God use him. It’s a good thing we’ve all been working together to equip this little saint because he’s been doing the work of ministry in his own childlike way from his kindergarten classroom.
I can’t wait to see what God does in first grade. 🙂