One of the nightly routines before my daughters’ bedtime was to read from their children’s Bible. At one point, it struck me that our Bible version neglected to include anything that occurred after the gospels. So off I marched to retrieve my own Bible.
I thumbed through the pages and was satisfied to land within the book of Acts. “Let me introduce you to Paul the Apostle!” I dramatized. My girls snuggled in on either side, laying their feathery blonde heads on my shoulders. (Now, let me interrupt this story with an important detail: the ages of my children were around five and two at the time. Yes, parents, you know what is about to happen!) I began our Bible story at the road to Damascus with as much zeal as Paul (named Saul before his conversion) himself possessed:
“Acts Chapter 9, ‘Then Saul, still breathing threats . . .’ ”
(I felt a tap-tap on my arm.)
“Mommy, what is a threat?”
“Then Saul, still breathing threats . . .”
(A less gentle tap-tap.)
“But how do you breathe a threat?”
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord . . .”
“What’s muwdew (murder)?”
“What’s a siple (disciple)?”
(Questions fired from both sides now. Resolve. Move forward.)
“. . . suddenly a light shone around him from heaven . . .”
(Tap. Smack! Ouch.)
“Mommy . . . what was the light . . . the light . . . what did the light look like?”
(Attempt answer. Close Bible. Rub temple. Deep breath.)
Nearly every night was the same. In the end, I felt as though I had taught a master’s course. Surely, my children could not possibly think of another question! Some weeks passed and Paul the Apostle seemed to have settled nicely into the foundations of their knowledge base. I felt confident that my children had an impressive grasp on Paul’s ministry for their ages. Then one day, my eldest daughter turned to me and asked perhaps the most important question of all, “Mommy, was Paul an apostle or an opossum?”
Let me interrupt once again to identify one of the practical reasons we place pictures in children’s Bibles. Was Paul an opossum? The question was shocking and adorable all at once. I love to write down these little quotes from my children. Years later, this one always brings a smile to my face. This time, however, as I thought about my daughter’s question, epiphany hit. I no longer viewed this question as simply a humorous example of a child’s misunderstanding. I had missed a deeper lesson within this question, one in which I am the student and my daughter the teacher . . . childlike faith.
Childlike faith is often interpreted to mean that we should believe just about anything. I will never suggest that true faith is not grounded in understanding. In the case of my daughter, though she misunderstood a particular detail about the person of Paul, she demonstrated greater understanding of the nature of God than most adults do. The message within the book of Acts is never meant to teach what humans can accomplish. Rather, the truth and revelation this book offers is what God will accomplish through humans. To my daughter, it didn’t matter whether Paul was a human apostle or whether he was an opossum, her God was mighty to do anything through whomever He chose.
Be it an opossum, or a donkey as with Balaam (see Numbers 22:28), or a whale with Jonah, God can use them to accomplish His will. My daughter didn’t seem to mind the impossibilities, inadequacies, or weaknesses. I have talked to many people who have a desire and a vision to do great things. The common problem is that their vision falls short when they make themselves the main character. I am well acquainted with the “I don’t think I can do that” mentality. From the outside this may be mistaken for humility, but let’s not be deceived. Humility is something very different.
I am reminded of the story in Exodus 3 when Moses received his calling. Actually, I want to direct our attention to the moments before this reception, because Moses wasn’t exactly up for the challenge at first. God revealed his purpose to Moses, saying, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Ex 3:10). And Moses responds, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11), and “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex 4:10).
Humble responses? After all, Moses seemed to understand his own human inadequacies. Yet, God tries to refocus Moses’ mentality. Something was out of alignment. “The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say’” (Ex 4:11-12). God did not congratulate Moses on his humility. Instead, the passage later states that the Lord’s anger burned against him. Moses was locked in an “I” mentality, focusing only on the “I can’t, I am not good enough.” All the while, God was trying to tell Moses that it was not really about him in the first place.
Scripture could not be more decisive on this point. 1 Corinthians 1:27 states, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” Acts 4:13 reveals that “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” There are many more, but it may be most appropriate to conclude with words from our very own “Opossum” Paul, who wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11: “But He [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
A Lesson in Childlike Faith with Paul the Opossum written by Lesley Rieland