Kids have the greatest knack for being literal, causing you to question how you communicate, explain, teach. A couple of the absolutely brilliant boys I mentor heard me say a phrase one night, and all of a sudden, I was explaining something so much bigger than just the literal –and they were getting it.
The phrase was “name, rank, and serial number.”
For someone like me who grew up with ex-military around, the meaning is as innate as the verb to be. Not so for these 10-year-olds. They have lived their years in San Francisco, probably with little exposure to military speak. How to explain it then…?
I didn’t want to talk to them about Guantanamo Bay or ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State. I didn’t want to talk in more terms they wouldn’t understand. I didn’t want this to be a moment when their curious eyes glazed over because the boring adult couldn’t teach them.-- Oh, I knew what I didn’t want.
Deep breath. And the briefest call to God as I dove in.
“Name, rank, and serial number? It’s like when you’re a soldier and the enemy catches you. Sometimes they want to find out stuff, so they ask you a bunch of questions. But you’ve been trained to say the same thing over and over: name, rank, and serial number.
“So if Satan comes and asks, ‘who do you think you are? You’re nobody,” you can say, ‘I’m M--. I’m a son of the Most High God, and He has a plan for my life.’” I turned to look at the other boy. “And you can say, ‘I’m J--. I’m a son of the Creator of everything that ever was. He made me in His image, and I’ve been chosen to show you who He is.’”
Even as I write this, it seems like a lot for a kid to comprehend. But in reality, they can handle more spiritual meat than we give them credit for. These growing guys got it. The conversations we’ve had since then show that they get it. So regardless of whether someone tells them they’re not cool or not good enough or whatever, they’re learning that because God’s word is always true, they don’t have to worry about the lies. They’re memorizing their identity in Christ. They’re letting Him etch it into their hearts and memories. Each day, they’re learning what it means to know who they are.
I could do with a little refresher myself sometimes. “I am Valonna, daughter of the King, Who brought me out of misery to bring me into joy” (Deut. 6:23).