Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One to One Correspondence

When August rolls around with its steamy weather, I'll be homeschooling an 8th grader and a kindergartner.  You can say a prayer for me!  Seeing it on the horizon, we've slowly begun preparing the 4 year old.  This week's preparation was learning to count to twenty; last week it was learning to say the 23rd Psalm.  The two things have more in common than you might think. 

If you're surprised that my 4 year old can't count to 20, I should perhaps add a word.  My 4 year old can't count to 20 in ENGLISH.   Some months ago she could recite her numbers to 20 in the local language but her English continues to lag behind.  I didn't suppose it would take long.  The kid learned no less than 12 Bible verses by heart in the last 2 months.  How hard could counting be?  But after numerous repetitions and multiple mistakes (who knew how many ways 20 and 12 could be mixed up?) an entire morning was spent helping our bouncing kinesthetic learner to say them successfully just one time!  

We were all excited to hear her do it right, but my teacher's mind was already jumping ahead.  Counting is a tiny step in the long road of mathematics.  Once a child can recite the numbers, they can be taught to recognize the Arabic and written forms, then to develop "one to one correspondence."  If that sounds like teacher-talk or possibly the incomprehensible language math-people speak, don't worry.  When a kid can count all the m&ms and complain that her sister has more, she's conquered one to one correspondence.  12 corresponds firmly in her mind with a dozen doughnuts or 12 steps up to the library.  She understands the connection between the abstract and concrete concepts. 

What if Bible learning is like math? I hesitate to even suggest this after the years of pain math class caused me.  Maybe just reading, or memorizing a verse is the barest beginning.   After, we have to form one to one correspondence with it in our lives.

Tree in winter - - 1638543
Take for example our walk to preschool.  On the way, we pass a barren tree.   All through the winter months its bare branches loomed over the ramp down to the sidewalk.  She calls it the monster tree.  As we passed it, I pointed out the buds and she insisted that it was still scary. 

I said to her, "Sweetheart, don't you remember? "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."  We don't need to be afraid.  God walks with us."

She smiled up at me, "Daddy holds my hand!"  Her confident smile made the meaning clear.  No monster tree needs to be feared when her muscular daddy walks by her side.  

I smiled back.  "You know, God is like a daddy.  He walks with us wherever we go and He holds our hand!"

Satisfied she nodded her head.  On my way back home, I had a lot to chew on.  My child has a father who lives in such a way as to make the metaphor clear.  Her father is a clear echo of her father in heaven. 

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" does correspond to my little girl.  She walks through a big world, a scary one.  She's afraid of the dark.  She's afraid of monster trees and she's especially scared of shadows.  She's learning the comfort of God walking with her like her father.

If she's learning on a kindergarten level I am still learning too.  One memorable afternoon, I sat on the edge of a hospital bed all alone holding my baby. Her fever was up over 105 and she had had three doses of fever reducing medicine in the last 4 hours.  I rocked her-hot tears on hot skin.  We were in "the valley of the shadow of death."  I needed the comfort and presence of God.  I needed my Father to hold my hand. 

Reciting numbers leads naturally to counting real objects.  Can you imagine a child who could do the one and not the other?  We would understand that something had gone terribly wrong in the natural process.  I wonder how many times though, I have learned some verse, read some chapter, listened to some sermon, and glossed over the concrete.  

The word of God revives us, teaches us, gives us wisdom.  It brings comfort and freedom (Psalms 119).  There is no circumstance in my life where I cannot find the pain or the joy reflected in the lives of the people of God recorded in the Bible.  There's no temptation I face that I can't take to my sympathetic high priest whose story I read there.  God has something to say to me something that can be understood in the context of my concrete life; the question is: do I have ears to listen?  
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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