Eloquent simplicity feels like a lost art with some children’s books these days. A classic such as All Things Bright and Beautiful is a breath of fresh air. Based on the hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander, this is a book about making, about the Grand Maker. The detailed illustrations by Bruce Whatley help kids stare at the details of common creations: the patterned fur of a faithful gray dog, paper-thin wings on a blue bird, the rippled grain of barn wood. After reading the book several times to my kids, I was struck by something: Why is it important for kids to be introduced to God as a Creator? That’s really the central message of the book, and it’s a simple one. Of course, we want to introduce our kids to the truth as early as possible. But is there something more? I think so.
A Personal Place
In Finding God in the Ordinary, I wrote about how the world we live in is intensely personal. Nothing in the world is “just there.” It’s all been spoken into motion by the God who speaks, governs and sustains it by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3). God is powerfully present in the world he’s made.
But that’s not the message our kids will hear out in the world. Frankly, they may not hear much of anything. Everyone outside the church will act as if we’re “just here.” Since it often feels that way, our kids can be drawn into that illusion. And make no mistake, it’s a very dangerous illusion. If we’re all “just here,” if creation just happened to roll out and evolve by happenstance, then where do we find meaning, purpose, hope? Where do our souls find a home? If creation isn’t the personal work of a personal God, then we’re lost. And it doesn’t take much effort to look at the rest of the world and notice that they are.
This is where a book like All Things Bright and Beautiful adds more value than we might think. With the simple couplets on each page, it’s easy to say, “This is just a book about God as the Creator.” But it’s more than that. It’s a book that calls children to embrace the wonder that all the dazzling details around them are the work of a Person—of one God in three persons. Notice the personal pronouns, so easy to gloss over.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.
He. There is someone who made all this. Creation is a personal place. And because it’s a personal place, our kids have a personal purpose, a personal role to play, a personal story to be a part of.
Combatting the Lie
All Things Bright and Beautiful is a reminder to combat the lie that we live in a world void of God’s presence. God is the Maker. God is the Sustainer. God is the one who gives the growth. God is the Lord of bird wings and barn wood. There is nothing in our world that’s impersonal, since God shows himself in all the things that he’s made (Rom. 1:20).
Reading books like these to our children might appear to have little effect on them. They may only comment on the pictures, as my youngest did. But if nothing else, these are the books that plant seeds that will germinate later in life. And they set up the choice for our kids that they’ll need to make someday: Is God present as Creator and sustainer, or is he not? All Things Bright and Beautiful says he is, and it says it in language and pictures that are accessible to little minds.
Pierce Taylor Hibbs, Finding God in the Ordinary (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2018).