September 11, 2013Scientists tell us that certain people may be genetically predisposed to engage in dangerous behavior. You know the folks I'm talking about. They're the ones who make a habit of putting themselves in life-threatening situations, like bungee jumping, skydiving and teaching preschoolers.
I've never tried the first two, but I can tell you that teaching preschool is an adrenaline junky's sport. You want wild, dangerous and unpredictable? You want to take your life into your own hands? Just step up in front of a group preschool kids and brace yourself. There's no telling what's going to happen.
Roller coasters and motorcycles have nothing over these guys.
I'd forgotten exactly what it was like until last summer when I filled in for a storyteller one weekend at church. At our church, storytelling is a big deal. We rehearse. We memorize. We use a stage and fancy lights. It's a carefully choreographed production. It's more like going to see a play than sitting in a classroom.
Typically, you don't interrupt a play, but no one told our preschoolers that. The second I came out on stage and began my story, a little girl's hand shot up.
"Ooh, ooh," she said. "I have to tell you something."
As an experienced storyteller, I knew if I called on her, I was asking for trouble. She could totally derail the lesson, and I'd lose the attention of every other kid in the room. If that happened, it could descend into chaos, and the next thing I know they'd have me tied up in the corner while they trashed the place.
"We'll talk later," I said.
But that didn't stop her. Her hand stayed up during the entire story. She waved. She rocked back and forth. She did anything she could to get my attention. I, however, had a job to do and a short amount of time to do it. I just hoped she didn't have to go to the bathroom.
Halfway through the story, she called me out again. "I REALLY have to tell you something."
"OK, almost done" I said.
Man, I thought, this kid was unstoppable. She was only 3. I'd never seen her before in my life, but clearly she felt like there was something urgent I needed to know.
After having two daughters, though, I knew a preschooler's definition of urgent wasn't necessarily the same as mine. I figured she was going to tell me about her pet or her favorite flavor of ice cream.
Finally, after wrapping up the story, I went over to her, got down on one knee and said, "All right, what did you want to tell me?"
She looked me right in the eyes and said, "I love you," and gave me a big hug.
My heart melted, and I realized that she had a better understanding of what's urgent than I do. I was so focused on finishing my story and getting the job done, I thought I had no time to listen. I had no idea what I was missing.
I wonder how many times during the week God waves His hand at us like that.
"I have something to tell you," He says.
"Later," we say.
We're too busy. We have lots of stuff to do. No time for distractions.
"But I REALLY have something to tell you," God says. "I love you."
In a matter of a couple of seconds, my 3-year-old friend communicated God's message way better than I ever could from a stage.
Maybe this week we all need to take our cues from her. Be a hand-raiser, an interrupter, a distracter. Don't take no for an answer. Make people stop and listen to the most urgent message they'll hear all week.
"I love you."
Trust me. It will be the best interruption they've ever had.
Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.