My 4 year old's reaction
We cozied in together beneath a heap of dinosaur quilted blankets and Lego Batman comforter.
We have read this story over and again, as it is one of my favorites! The Garden, The Curtain, and The Cross by Carl Laferton.
This book separates itself from other children's Bible story books, because it gives a broad overview of sin and grace, and how God has been working to redeem humanity throughout history by means of the garden, the curtain, and cross.
Most children and even many adults do not understand the themes in scripture - how the temple curtain is like a "keep out" sign that is a continuation of the twisting and flaming swords set outside of Eden. The way this book explains the progression of our sin and God's continuing to reach out to us, is a valuable stance for interpreting scripture as an adult. Too many stories make biblical accounts about some fantastic symbol or character that they are not about - children go through years of story books and Sunday school believing that Jonah is about a fish, the Ark is about animals, or that David's legacy ended with a giant's fall. This book introduces the goodness of God, and the misery of sin in an appropriate way that bends the child heart to long for God.
As we started with this book, my 4 yr old, who is an empath really showed me the depth of heart that the story reaches through the beautiful illustrations and affective narrative.
We started out learning that "it is wonderful to live with Him". We saw Adam and Eve illustrated in splendor and beauty, and learned that they looked forward with delight to walking with God throughout the garden of Eden. The excitement of the original pair is catchy.
But in the next page, we see the terrible disaster that not trusting God brought. As a person who loves to read all the relationship books and counseling sources, I stand by the teachings that say without trust, there is no relationship. We see in this children's story how Eve and Adam ended up allowing an outsider to mature naïve distrust into outright disobedience. The heartbreak is on Eve's face in the pictures. She hides behind her hands.
It struck me, that as I read this story, I introduced my little son to a beautiful, loving, attention lavishing God, creator of delightful things, Father to all people. And then suddenly, ( to use adult parental/household terms) we broke curfew and were kicked out. We smuggled illegal substances in, had to start paying utilities of our own elsewhere. We realized that raising fists to the Father of the house was a terrible idea that left us unprotected to our evil behaviors and foolish choices.
Seeing Eve with her face in her hands, my son teared up. I had taught him about a beautiful God, and then I had showed him we were disastrously cut away from that security and peace.
Thankfully, he was comforted enough to listen to the end, where he learned that Jesus died because of our sin, and now we can come in! The pictures depict Heaven and Jesus surrounded by people all over the world. It is beautiful and bright scene.
If you are looking for a book that catches the attention of your children and explains grace in a way that they can respond to, this is the book you need for your story time or Sunday school. I am sure most kids will not cry - as I said, my son is a total empath and is very understanding and connected to the senses of others. But his reaction (I teared up a bit too!) let me know I was not reading something forgettable to him. The gospel is not commonplace in this work, but is a miracle of grace, of God who is not willing to give up on reaching His people until they can live with Him again.
Find the book on Amazon, Lifeway, Christian book stores.