An Art Reflection: Through the Eyes of a Child
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like them.” Matthew 19:14 (NIrV)
The kingdom, Jesus says, belongs to those who receive it like a child. What would it look like for us to engage God in childlike ways? How can we receive the kingdom like a child? A childlike faith approaches God and all of life with a posture of wonder and imagination. Woven throughout a child’s wonder and imagination is the practice of play. When we practice play, we engage in an activity simply for the sake of joy without the need to accomplish or produce anything.
Play is how children make sense of the world. It cultivates a posture of awe and wonder that shapes them and helps them to experience God in new ways. Play is sacred: intersecting our imaginations and realities to allow us to engage with God and embody God’s story.
In order to enter into this new year, we have created an experience that engages our childlike spirits through an artistic reflection. Art invites us to use our imaginations and curiosity to think about God in a new way, and this artist in particular (Joel Schoon-Tanis) invites us to see God through the playful eyes of a child.
Each reflection involves an image and a scripture. The images come from the artist Joel Schoon-Tanis. Joel strives to view the world through a child-like lens—full of color, whimsy and honesty. His work helps others unlock a sense of child-like wonder about God’s world. He says, “I juxtapose kid-like drawings and text to help the viewer see things from a fresh perspective.” Each image includes a paraphrase of the scripture passage from a child. As you read these words, perhaps you might consider them the voice of your inner child.
We invite you to reflect on each image and scripture and then respond with a playful practice. Families will want to experience this together. Adults, we encourage you to approach these practices with a posture of freedom and receptivity. As best you can, set aside the temptation to be self-conscious. If you do not have children in your home, I wonder if there are any kids in your life you might include in one or more of these practices. Perhaps a grandchild or a niece or nephew might help you embrace these practices. Perhaps we might even allow a child to lead us.
You may choose to reflect on all of the images in one sitting or you might decide to look at one each day for the week. It is our prayer that these art reflections will help you encounter God with childlike wonder and a playful spirit.
For each picture, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- What did you notice first in this picture? Why do you think that is what you noticed?
- When I look at this painting, I wonder about …
- What are you being invited by God to see?
- What is God saying to you through this picture?
About the Artist:
Joel is a celebrated painter with art and murals exhibited throughout the world. He also illustrated more than a dozen books including the New International Reader’s Version Kid’s Study Bible (Zondervan). Joel partnered with Jars of Clay lead singer, Dan Haseltine, for The One, The Only, Magnificent Me! and Lulu and the Long Walk. In recent years he has worked on a number of projects for the church, including At God’s Table (Calvin Press), At Psalms School (GIA), and his own art books 40: The Biblical Story and 40: The Gospels.
You can learn more about Joel at joelschoontanisgallery.com or follow him on Instagram at @joel.schoon.tanis.art
About this Experience:
This experience is part of The Practice Church’s participation in a grant project studying Sacred Play through Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL) and funded by the Calvin Institute of Worship. The images are used with permission from the artist, and the reflections are developed by a team of children’s ministry professionals in the USA and Canada. All wording is by the Practice Church staff. The Practice Church is pleased to be a part of this project!