Friday, April 20, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

Ironically, the concept of faithfulness is very complex, even though it likely surrounded us our early years if we were cared for by a responsible parent. Such parental devotion serves as an obvious model for God’s faithfulness in the form of attention, promises kept, and needs met. This PBT book offers such a parental metaphor of God, but mine these pages for much more! Faithfulness is what God asks of us too!
Picture Book: I Promise
Author & Illustrator: David McPhail
Summary:This story is deceptively complex. It's child oriented without being childish. The illustrations are simply a mother and baby bear enjoying nature in both bear and human ways.  
After being asked to sing, Mother Bear makes a promise to sing to Baby Bear later. Then she is asked, "What's a promise?" Mother Bear's first answer: "A promise is when you say you will do something and then do your very best to do it." 
If a promise isn't kept, it's a broken promise that may be hard to "fix." It might hurt someone.
Baby Bear wants to know what else Mother Bear will promise. Cloud watching is the next promise she gives. This is a promise of presence. 
Next she promises to listen and to look and to stay when fears are pressing in.  
Beyond providing a sense of security, Mother Bear promises to provide good food. 
When Baby Bear presses for more promises, Mother Bear says she will teach her bear what is needed to be a grown-up bear, but some things Baby Bear will have to learn on his own.
Baby Bear is surprised when his mother confesses she doesn't know everything. 
When Baby Bear asks if she will promise "I will always be happy," wise Mother Bear replies that such a promise can never be made. Being happy will largely be up to Baby Bear.
As they head home, Mother Bear makes one last promise to always love her cub no matter what. Baby Bear is a bit surprised by the "no matter what" part of that promise.  
Baby Bear looks forward to the promise he will keep tomorrow to play with his friend. Mother Bear declares that keeping promises feels really good! 
This story ends with a promise from Baby Bear to be a good bear, most of the time. 
Mother Bear delights in Baby Bear's promise and then sings him to sleep, her first promise kept.
Hanna’s Comments: What makes the idea of faithfulness hard to explore is the question of its direction. Usually, we often think of faithfulness as an attribute of God, but that's not what Paul is talking about in Galatians. The Fruits of the Spirit are not simple. Paul writes about our faithfulness to God, to our family, and to our neighbor. You can expand this idea even more. Talk about faithfulness to work, to ideals, and certainly to a religious institution. It’s also important to distinguish faithfulness from faith. Faith is generally thought of as a set of beliefs, whereas faithfulness is about action, orientation, presence, and commitment. One last reason I love this book? It offers a fabulous example of a deep and meaningful conversation with a very young child. The keys to such conversations are listening carefully, being empathetic to experiences, asking appropriate questions, and offering simple wisdom. Such skills are truly acts of faithfulness and delightful to God. 
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown Bks, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: In addition to The Fruit of the Spirit verses in Galatians 5:22-23…If you faithfully obey the voice of God… all these blessings shall come upon you (Deuteronomy 28:68); A faithful person will abound with blessings (Proverbs 28:20); Who then is the faithful and wise manager… (Luke 12:42);  one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much… (Luke 16:10); For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7); If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or adults and then explore the very complex notion of faithfulness. It would also be a great book to read to a group attending a parenting class.