As soon as Nannygranne saw Oliver, she could feel the exasperation exploding in his young body.
His mother said, “I’m sorry Nannygranne. He’s grounded and can’t come with the rest of us to the water park. I hope he’ll calm down for you.” Then she left.
Nannygranne’s heart broke for Oliver. This was a big disappointment for someone so young. After the rest of the family left, Nannygranne told Oliver she would keep him company and knew he must be disappointed to have to stay home today. Then she brought a dining chair close to Oliver and quietly sat down, placing her large bag at her side. Validating his feelings and allowing him to be quiet was what he needed for a while. Perhaps he would want to talk about it in his time.
After a few minutes of silence, Nannygranne rummaged in her bag, pretending to be searching for something. Unloading her treasures, she set them on the floor between her and Oliver without comment. First was a travel game of Tic-Tac-Toe, then Old Maid cards, a bag of marbles, another of jacks, a sucker and a bag of chips.
“Oh no!” she said. “I forgot my colored tapes! I wanted to make a picture of you with my colored tapes. Sometimes I get so mad at myself!” Then she paused, sighed loudly and added, “I’m sorry Oliver. I hope you won’t be mad at me.”
Oliver, still slumped over, head in hands, just shook his head without looking up.
“Thank you, Oliver. I think you must really be feeling angry. I miss your smile and happy eyes, and I miss our having fun. What happened to make you feel so bad?”
Bursting into tears, Oliver shouted, “It’s not fair! My brother broke my goggles and I have to have my goggles for the water park. I got mad so now I don’t get to go! God, I’m so mad!” He was drowning in these perceived injustices.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you. If you’d like to sit in my lap, I could tell you a story and maybe it could help you feel better.”
Oliver seemed to welcome the gesture of friendship and quickly climbed into her lap and her hug.
“Did you know that Jesus had a step-father?”1
Oliver sat up, surprised. “He did? I thought Joseph was his daddy.”
“Well, Jesus’ real father was Jehovah God and God sent Jesus from their home in heaven to live on earth. Then God sent an angel to ask Mary and Joseph to take care of Jesus.”
“Why did God do that?” Oliver couldn’t imagine such a thing as being sent away from home.
“Jesus had a special job that his Father wanted him to do and Jesus said He would go to earth and be turned into a human so He could do that job.” 2
“Oh, I know what His job was. He came to earth to forgive us of all our sins.” Proud of himself, Oliver now smiled,
“That’s right. But Jesus always missed his Father and one time he got to go visit His Father’s House in Jerusalem. But his parents wouldn’t let him stay,” Nannygranne began.
“Well, his family went on a big holiday vacation to Jerusalem. They camped out with other families and their kids, too. They stayed in Jerusalem for the holiday for a whole week and then it was time to go home, except Jesus wasn’t ready to leave. After they’d traveling all day long, Mary and Joseph started to set up their camp and noticed Jesus wasn’t around. They must have thought He was with His friends, but all the travelers said they hadn’t seen Him all day.
“Mary and Joseph must have been worried someone had stolen Jesus or that He’d wandered off and gotten lost. They hurried back to Jerusalem early the next morning but it took them all day to get there. Then they looked for Him and looked for Him three whole days! Finally they went to the temple. Maybe they wanted to go pray and ask God to help them find Jesus. But when they arrived, there Jesus was! He’d been in the temple talking about the scriptures with all the old teachers. He was so happy to be in God’s house, talking about God’s word. I bet He really missed his Father.
“But Joseph and Mary got on to Jesus and made Him go back to Nazareth with them. He was only twelve years old and needed to finish growing up. Jesus was disappointed, but He knew the Father in Heaven wanted Him to obey his parents–even if it wasn’t fair.”3
Waiting for Oliver to process the story, Nannygranne finally asked, “Do you think Jesus knows how you feel today?”
Oliver looked down at his hands then, nervously picking at his fingernail, he said, “But I didn’t do like Jesus. I hit my brother and yelled at my parents. That’s why I didn’t get to go to the water park.”
“Oh, I see. Sometimes we make big mistakes. But it’s important to understand that Jesus has felt just how we feel4 and even when we’re angry. He wants to help us learn from our mistakes and then He even helps us. You see, Jesus understands that we make mistakes and He’s never surprised when we do. But He loves us too much to not help us.”5
“But my brother broke my goggles and he didn’t get into trouble.” Oliver’s scowl returned and he crossed his arms in frustration.
“You’re right. That doesn’t feel fair. What do you think Jesus did when his brothers broke his toys or tools?”
“I don’t know,” Oliver shrugged.
“Well, the Bible tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and also got along with people well. So, He figured out what to do when people weren’t being fair. 6
“Jesus’ disciples sometimes didn’t think things were fair and Jesus would tell them that they could trust Jehovah God to do whatever needed to be done when people did wrong.7 He told them that their job was to be patient and kind, forgiving and helpful. He said that God said, ‘I tell you, I will do the punishing.’ He said it’s not our job to pay people back, but we’re supposed to treat them well. Sometimes those people change and become better when we do that. But there will be others that just can’t stand us being nice and may leave us alone.”
“How does God punish somebody?” Oliver was both curious and concerned.
“Well, God gives us parents to do the punishing, or teachers at school or the principal. For grownups that do wrong, God gave us police to catch them and put them in jail or make them pay people money for what they hurt or broke.8 But when people fight each other, it can become very dangerous. It’s best to stay away from things like that.9 Jesus never let His friends fight each other.”
“Oh,” Oliver said thoughtfully. Finally with a nod of his head, he climbed down. “Can I play in the sprinkler outside, Nannygranne?” Evidently, he’d found satisfaction and wanted to move on. It’s no wonder Jesus said of children, “The Kingdom of Heaven is made up of these.”9
“That sounds like so much more fun than making pictures with colored tape. You go get your bathing suit on and get a towel while I go out and get the hose and sprinkler ready.” As Nannygranne worked, she prayed Oliver’s lesson today would come to mind over and over as he learned to navigate our angry culture into the future. And she thanked God, again, for His better Way.
1 Luke 1:26-38
2 John 3:14-21
3 Luke 2:41-52
4 Hebrews 2:18; 4:15
5 John 16:33
6 Luke 2:52
7 Matthew 20:28; Matthew 20:1-16
8 Romans 1:18-32; 12:9-21; Romans 13:1-7
9 Matthew 18:1-4
For more on the anger of Jesus: https://www.rethinknow.org/what-made-jesus-mad/