When my son-in-law, Taylor, described how his children’s varied personalities were demonstrated on a recent hike, I began to wonder at what age career paths could be determined. Will Hannah, age five, who wanted to organize the play and tell her brothers what to do, become a professor or a corporate CEO? Does four-year-old Josiah’s preference to look in the water for living creatures indicate he might follow in his father’s footsteps to study fish as a wildlife biologist? And is Caleb, the sweet two-year-old who kept dipping his hand in the creek and saying, “Lord, have mercy upon us; Christ, have mercy upon us,” while making the sign of the cross, destined to become a priest?
I suspect children’s actions can foretell their futures. My husband, George, was enlisted by his third-grade teacher to help with discipline in the classroom. If another student dropped trash on the floor, George fined him/her three cents. If she/he took off a shoe at school, the fine was five cents. George was meticulous at collecting and recording the funds, which were used to fund a year-end class party with sundaes for everyone at Shoney’s. His teacher even noted on his report card that she would let him handle her money anytime. It’s not surprising, then, that his career with the Internal Revenue Service spanned almost forty years.
When I visited my daughter’s family in Montana, I saw that the rituals of their Anglican community have mesmerized Caleb, resulting in his favorite play activity being “church.” He was quite serious as he draped the play table with a baby blanket to establish the altar, with round wooden blocks placed on either side as candles, lit by tiny pieces of orange-colored paper. Caleb held his mom’s Bible above his head and paraded around the house singing, “Christ have mercy upon us, hallelujah, hallelujah.” He usually had me lead the way with a child-sized straw broom held high, the bristles reminiscent of a cross. Occasionally he stopped to open the Bible and “read” aloud. When finished, he would close the book and lift it above his head again as we continued along our path.
When we returned to the altar, he asked me to step forward and kneel, at which time he offered me a Cheerio (the body of Christ) and water (the blood of Christ). Serious stuff. I then returned to my seat across the room and sat while he said, “Lord, have mercy,” and “Hallelujah,” several times—his version of the liturgy.
Church has affected everything Caleb does. One morning he was in crisis because he couldn’t find his thurible (censer). (He used a gymnastics medal swinging on a ribbon in imitation of the metal object hanging from a chain that was used by the priest to disperse incense.) Caleb wanted to play “construction” but didn’t want to use his tools until he had censed and blessed them.
Another day, he got a cooking pot from the kitchen and filled it with play food to make soup, just as his parents do most Sundays to take to church for the fellowship lunch that follows the service. When Sunday rolled around, he fully expected to take his pot along.
Caleb’s church play has its funny moments. One day he stood on a chair next to the altar he created, held high a pair of children’s safety scissors, and proclaimed, “Scissors are not for grown-ups! Scissors are for me! Thanks be to Dod!” (Yes, he sometimes has trouble with his “g’s.”) And occasionally, his “hallelujahs” morphed into “knick knack paddy whack, give the dog a bone.”
This focus on church seems a bit unusual for someone so young. I’m thrilled with Caleb’s heart for God, but also because he reminds me of myself at that age. If anyone asked what I wanted to be when I was a preschooler, my answer was always, “a missionary.” More than anything, I wanted to tell people about Jesus. When health problems kept me from being accepted into a missions’ program after college, I learned that a person can share Jesus through any type of work they do; a foreign country and the title of missionary are not needed.
Caleb’s Christmas wish list included only one item: a priest’s robe. He’s serious about worshipping God, which is not surprising since his mother has prayed since he was in the womb that he would boldly proclaim God’s name. Caleb is named after the first Israelite spy to insist that God’s people take possession of the Promised Land rather than rebel against God’s directions. His middle name, Laurence, comes from a church martyr.
Question number one of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith asks: What is the chief end of man? The answer is simple: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Caleb seems to be well on his way to doing that very thing.
Karen Curran lives near Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a BS in Accounting from Mars Hills University, but has retired from the accounting profession to focus on storytelling. Her stories can be found on howtopackforchurchcamp.com and oldkaren.com.