Marvin's problems begin with a quarrel with his older brother.
But it doesn't stop there.
Not only is his toy taken from him, but his brother lies about it.
To heap more problems on top of it, Marvin's own father believes the lie and punishes him, sending him to bed.
In response, Marvin runs away.
While this isn't part of the actual opening of the Prodigal Son, it is the symbolic opening to nearly every story in the Bible.
There is a loss, a conflict, an injustice, a rebellion.
In fact, it's the story of the human condition.
Yet most children aren't given an outlet to effectively talk about this inevitable brokenness in the real world.
While I would like nothing more than to shield my children from the sinfulness of the world, I know that they will encounter betrayal, conflict, and injustice. As imperfect people, they will respond out of the flesh, at times.
When someone recognizes the depth of brokenness in themselves is when they can experience the greatest of loves. So in shielding them from this truth, in some ways, I don't really give them an outlet to begin talking about the need for Christ.
I created this opening in The Kingdom of Marvin so that I could start such a conversation with my two daughters.
I ask them, "How would you feel if this happened to you?"
Sometimes they just egg me on to keep reading and don't bother answering me.
When I ask them, "Why did Marvin's brother lie?", every once in a while, they actually do respond with an answer.
I know they have experienced it. I've seen them fight enough times.
Having the narrative in a story book, however, gives me a little something to bring up. And hopefully finds a spot in their own mind to know it's not uncommon.
They are a little too young to understand that these three elements of conflict, deceit, and betrayal are foundational sins for which we all need grace.
But at least we can start.
Here are some other things I ask them:
- Why are these two brothers fighting?
- Why does Nathrop lie and blame Marvin for stealing the toy?
- How does Marvin feel when his father believes the lie and punishes Marvin?
These may not be the most fun and exciting questions or topics to ask your child.
But I believe the process begins now to experience grace. And to know grace, we need an open conversation about the not-so-nice things in life, as well.