So many concepts in the Bible are difficult for children to understand. All young children (and many older children) are concrete thinkers. When they read scriptures talking about God using a “refiner’s fire” (Zechariah 13:9 and more), they may believe God literally uses fire somehow. Even though the references to God as the potter and us as His clay (Isaiah 64:8) are a bit more concrete, they can still confuse children, who may wonder how they are clay.
Sometimes actually showing children items and explaining them in more depth can help them process metaphors and analogies in the Bible a bit more easily. When you think of all of those scriptures and others like them, there is a basic underlying concept. Because we – in this case your children – are born as babies into a fallen world, we aren’t fully yet what God created us to be.
God sends circumstances and people, gives us the Bible, and at baptism the Holy Spirit to help us grow to become more like His image in which we were created. What better example for that than sea glass?
Take your kids out for a walk along the water line the next time you are at a beach. Encourage them to look for bits of sea glass as well as the other interesting things they will find. (Be careful, as newer sea glass may still have sharp edges.) After you have gathered some pieces, grab a towel and sit on the beach with your sea glass treasures in front of you.
Explain to your children some people use sea glass to create jewelry. They can’t use the glass when it is first placed into the ocean. Usually sea glass begins as bottles that are trash and somehow make it into the ocean. If you have a piece of sea glass that has not been fully smoothed yet, show it to them. Or you can pull out a bottle you have brought in your beach bag. Explain at first the glass has too many sharp edges and can’t be used by the creator of the jewelry.
To be useful, sea glass has to have been tossed by the waves and bump up against rocks and sea life for a very long time before its edges are smoothed. Often sea glass will even begin to slightly change colors as you can see in the photo the cloudiness and softened hues. Only when it has been tossed about and banged up a bit can it really be useful to the person creating the jewelry.
Explain sometimes God paints word pictures in the Bible. He compares something we understand to something a little more difficult to understand about ourselves and God. Ask older kids what lessons God could teach them about themselves and God using sea glass. For younger children, explain God gives us experiences and opportunities to learn things throughout our lives. Sometimes, these lessons and opportunities are fun. Other times, we may feel a bit like the sea glass – tossed about and banged up a bit. It’s important for them to understand when life seems tough, God can use what happened to help them learn and grow and become stronger.
Help them begin to understand that every time they learn or experience something that brings them closer to God, it is also making them more useful to God. Although God can do anything, He has designed this world so His people do many of the things He wants done on earth. Your kids need to develop their faith, become more godly in their character, increase their Bible knowledge, find and develop their gifts and nourish their relationship with God to be as useful as they can be to God.
Tell them when they are discouraged, they should look at the sea glass you gathered. It will remind them their goal is not to be the broken bottle tossed into the sea as trash, but the refined sea glass a jeweler can use to make beautiful jewelry. If time allows, you may even want to point out some sea glass jewelry in a local shop or make your own from what you found. (If you don’t have access to an ocean, clay from your local craft store can teach the same lessons.)
Taking the time to help your kids understand some of the more complex teachings in the Bible is important. It gives them a strong building block in their Faith foundations. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.