When Brad and I were asked to write the stories of Jesus to go with Murry’s paintings in A Man Like No Other, we wrote them for adults. They contain a lot of theology in those very short bits designed to help people unpack the story of Jesus from all the religious dressing we’ve added to his life over two thousand years and see him for who he was—God living among us in human flesh. He preferred living in our world, to living without us in his.
But the pictures draw the eyes of children and I’ve been amazed at how much children glean from the stories. Even though they may miss the nuances of theology, they do pick up the simple reality of who Jesus is and why he came to live and die in our world. But I really loved this email that I got a couple of weeks ago. (The names have been changed to protect the people involved.)
My wife’s parents recently went up to her brother’s house to pick up our niece, Jennifer, to bring her back to stay with them for a few weeks. Jennifer is 10 and loves to read. She lives in a very difficult situation. Her dad works a lot, mainly to stay away from home. Her mom suffers medical conditions going on and is generally an angry person. She says she is atheist but we think she says it only in an attempt to stick a finger the family’s eye.
Anyway, her parents were up there last week picking her up and noticed Jennifer had the copy of “A Man Like No Other” in her room. We had given them out to the family a couple years back as Christmas gifts. My wife’s mom asked her if she was reading it and Jennifer said, “Oh Grannie, this book has answered so many questions I have had.”
That simple story fulfills everything Murry had on his heart when he painted the pictures, and what I had in mine in helping write the text to go with them. I know my granddaughters have enjoyed the book as well. I noticed that when the oldest was only six and I was reading the unfinished manuscripts ot her as we looked at the paintings. Now at eight I continue to have some wonderful conversations with her as we look at the book together.
The paintings are compelling enough to hold the attention of young children long enough to glean from the stories what they can understand. Often they ask the most incredible questions as they processes their own thoughts about who Jesus is and what it all means to them.