At our church preschool I lead a chapel service early each week and then a brief story time later in the week, reading a book that is in continuity with whatever Bible story I told in chapel. Usually I choose simple read-aloud Bible books for story time, but last week I tried something different. The response was noteworthy. I talked about the snake tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden at chapel, but later in the week I read David Shannon’s popular and award-winning children’s book No, David! Most of the kids seemed to love it—the room was buzzing with excitement and laughter. I shouldn’t have been surprised since it is one of my daughter’s favorite books. She can relate to David.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, on each page David does something his mother tells him not to do, usually with a simple caption like “No, David.” Or “I said, No!” The art is simple and honestly a bit diabolical. But the tone changes dramatically on the final two pages when his mother unexpectedly says with open arms, “Davey come here. Yes, David … I love you!” According to the author, he wrote his rough draft when he was just a young boy:
A few years ago, my mother sent me a book I made when I was a little boy. It was called No, David, and it was illustrated with drawings of David doing all sorts of things he wasn’t supposed to do. The text consisted entirely of the words ‘No’ and ‘David.’ (They were the only words I knew how to spell.) I thought it would be fun to do a remake celebrating those familiar variations of the universal ‘no’ that we hear growing up.
Essentially, what I told the preschoolers was: “Just as David breaks rules over and over again, doing what his mommy tells him not to do, Adam and Eve also broke a rule, doing what God told them not to do when they ate the apple. David’s mother gets upset, but she still loves him even when he doesn’t follow the rules. God was also upset with Adam and eve, but he still loved them after they disobeyed him.” This is an example of my attempts to explain theological ideas like Law and Gospel to very young children. I don’t think children are too young for such theology if done in their terms. They can certainly relate to David since so often they are being told what to and not to do, and often they don’t really understand the purpose of the rules they are disobeying. That’s probably why so many small children love this book. Yet the story owes so much of its power to the final two pages, which end with words of comfort. God’s “Yes” is similar but even better:
Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:17-20)