One of my favorite writers is Walter Wangerin, Jr., son of a Lutheran pastor, professor at Valparaiso University, and prolific author (Book of the Dun Cow; Paul, A Novel; As for Me and My House; and numerous children’s books).
Though we may differ with him in some of his theology, Wangerin has tremendous gifts of insight into the human condition, everyday life, and God’s ways with His people, and I have benefitted greatly from his writings. Besides, he is simply a gifted writer, whose prose makes you think, relate, and laugh. And, his writings make you enjoy reading and stimulate you to read more.
One of his older books I recently picked up in a thrift store is Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004. Mine is a first ed., hardcover). The title comes from a poem by William Blake, called “The Lamb,” in which Blake parallels God’s Lamb and the lambs of the church.
Wangerin’s introductory chapter is titled “You Are, You Are, You Are” – the end of which line comes at the end of the chapter (“You are, you are, you are, my child, a marvelous work of God!”), and in it Wangerin calls us to let our children laugh. Before you dismiss this as light and frivolous, listen to what he has to say:
Let the children laugh and be glad.
O my dear, they haven’t long before the world assaults them. Allow them genuine laughter now. Laugh with them, till tears run down your faces – till a memory of pure delight and precious relationship is established within them, indestructible, personal, and forever.
Soon enough they’ll meet faces unreasonably enraged. Soon enough they’ll be accused of things they did not do. Soon enough they will suffer guilt at the hands of powerful people who can’t accept their own guilt and who must dump it, therefore, on the weak. In that day the children must be strengthened by self-confidence so they can resist the criticism of fools. But self-confidence begins in the experience of childhood.
So give your children (your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, the dear ones, children of your neighbors and your community) – give them golden days, their own pure days, in which they are so clearly and dearly beloved that they believe in love and in their own particular worth when love shall seem in short supply hereafter. Give them laughter.
More from this wonderful book on being a child and being a parent in the year to come, D.V.