In the story, the people of Israel are taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. As they leave the city, they look back and see the smoke rising. The soldiers marched the people of God a long, long way from their home to the place of exile. The journey took a very long time and some of the people died on the way. The exile lasted 70 years, the passing of a full generation.
In the children’s ministry curriculum Godly Play, the telling of the story involves moving the people from "Jerusalem" to "Babylon.” There is a river in the way and the people are led around it. Of course, this adds some extra seconds to the telling of the story.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of telling this story to a group of children in upper elementary school. As the people moved, we tried to practice silence. But, this was hard. A bit of dialogue:
The children: "Can't we just put the people over there?"
Me: "No, we can't."
"Because they couldn't just go over there like that and their story is our story."
"But, we know that. Let's just put them over there so we can keep telling the story."
"Well, I would like to do that--and that would be nice--but that's not how the story goes. They had to go this way. They couldn't just hop over there in a second. Think about this for a second. Let's wonder a bit."
I gestured to one of the children and asked: "How old are you now?"
"Let's say you were one of the children taken into captivity. How old would you be when you returned to Jerusalem?"
We discussed that for a bit and then noted: "You would have spent your whole life away from home."
After we finished wondering about the story, a couple of the children wanted to work with the story more during a free response time we host every week. When it came to moving the people to Babylon, the waiting was too much so in their telling of the story the children just picked up the people and began moving them to Babylon like Superman.
A helper was on-hand, gently reminding them: "Remember? That's not how the story goes. It took them a long time to go. They couldn't just hop over the river. They went around it."
With that, I was happy to see that the children slowed down a bit and took time to be faithful to the waiting-story.
Our goal in this little exercise was to help the kids feel the "dissonance" of waiting. Waiting is one of those things that cannot be taught by just talking about it. In our day and age we are not accustomed to waiting for anything. We are told that people have a short attention span nowadays so it's our job to make sure they don't get bored. "Keep it moving." But waiting is good for our soul and there is no sound-bite shortcut to this. We can't learn waiting by some clever technique of not-waiting. We can only learn the value of waiting by waiting. It takes time. We don't like it, but that does not change the fact that waiting takes time. Making friends with this kind of waiting is one of the best things we could ever do. May we learn to wait.
Here's to play,
PlayFull creates objects and provides training for Godly Play storytelling and other similar forms of ministry--for children and adults alike. Email Troy to inquire how PlayFull can be of help to you.