It dawned on me recently how heavy my reading list has leaned toward children’s literature for… well, awhile now. From the Hundred Acre Woods (A.A. Milne’s original, folks) to Narnia to that house on the prairie, this world of children’s literature feels new again as it finds me enjoying the second ride around with far bigger eyes and far deeper longing, a longing to return to the sweet simplicity and wonder of my daughters.
Our wise sage Clive Staples Lewis said this, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Leon Morris said of the gospel of John, “A pool in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim. It is both simple and profound. It is for the veriest beginner in the faith and for the mature Christian.” Authors who can beautifully condense truth to the best syntax that draws in readers across the age spectrum? This is no small art form.
Sally Lloyd Jones has been this author to me, speaking the profound yet elementary truth as faith like a child; plumbing the depths of the inspired and inerrant actual scripture can never be replaced. Yet “The Jesus Storybook Bible” has proven to be one of the most influential books for our family before babies were ever even in the picture. The fact that it has it’s own dash button on my Amazon homepage speaks to the bulk orders we’ve made over the years and in multiple languages. The one in my lap right now is down to its bare bones binding as it’s been quite literally loved to pieces.
I distinctly remember two vignettes that point to the value we see in this treasure of a book…
Shiho was a soft-spoken freshman at Utsunomiya University when we first met her. She attended Bible discussion for years and had shared deep gospel conversation with many of her believing friends, I knew for certain. Surely it is only the Holy Spirit who finally opens deaf ears to the truth, but it was sitting across from her at our kitchen table reading the Japanese translation of the “ジェザスバイブルストリ”. Together in each of our languages, we read this:
“Jesus could have rescued himself… But Jesus stayed. You see, they didn’t understand. It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love…
And for the first time – and the last – when He spoke, nothing happened. Just horrible, endless silence. God didn’t answer. He just turned away from his Boy…
The full force of the storm of God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down. On His own Son. Instead of His people. It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.
Then Jesus shouted in a loud voice, ‘It is finished!’
And it was. He had done it. Jesus had rescued the whole world.”
After a very pregnant pause, Shiloh said, “I know I’ve heard this before, but I’ve never heard it like that. I didn’t know that’s what happened.” It wasn’t much longer before she placed her faith in Jesus.
The second vignette was reading it to my first baby girl (which was really just reading it to myself), during a period of dark depressive sadness while living overseas. I had watched my frailty and weakness mount like a wall, brick by brick in front of me over the course of months. The narrative looped in my mind played incessantly, “I am a waste of human space. What a massive disappointment I’ve turned out to be. Anyone would be nailing it at this role. I am failing. I am a failure.”
Mrs. Lloyd-Jones wrote healing balm for my heart that left salty tears sliding down my cheeks. Her words were the antidote to the poisonous lies I had built up to toxic levels in my soul. In the chapter where Jesus faces temptation in the desert, followed by calling His first disciples:
“Who would make good helpers, do you think? Clever ones? Rich ones? Strong, important ones? Some people might think so, but I’m sure by now you don’t need me to tell you they’d be wrong. Because the people God uses don’t have to know a lot of things, or have a lot of things—they just have to need him a lot.”
In the end, that’s all I was left with anyways. Desperate need for Jesus. My prayers were a thousand a day and so short, “God, help.” As often happens in hours of despair, my soul drank up her words that echoed truth found in Spirit-inspired scripture.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Philippians 3:8-9
I suppose its the Jesus nursery rhymes that may, after all, be the most needed for the adult human soul. Jesus loves me, this I know…? The art of distilling down to truth in its purest form, while maintaining the transcending height of who Jesus is, this is the writing that is a pool in which a child can wade and a grown-up woman can swim.