How do we help students see God in all things — including novels — even if he isn’t mentioned?
Inspired by her Teaching for Transformation early adopter training, 7th grade teacher Mrs. Beth Naylor created a final project for a book study where the students could practice “seeing God’s story,” even in a secular story. Her students recently finished reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which takes place in the early 1930s in Mississippi. Cassie, a young black girl, narrates the struggles of her family to keep their land and the prejudices of those who live around them.
God isn’t mentioned in this story, Mrs. Naylor explains, but “I wanted them to see God’s story throughout this novel. There are elements of God’s ultimate story within it: creation, fall, redemption, restoration. I asked them to look with new eyes as they interpreted the events in the book through those filters.”
She divided the class into groups and asked them to make a mobile that would represent the biblical themes creation, fall, redemption and restoration evident within this book. As the students created their projects they processed question prompts for each theme. As they presented their work they explained how their visuals connected Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry to the God’s ‘big story’.
Creation — Design
The questions students were challenged to think through included: What was God’s original purpose/design? How do we know? How can it be represented?
The students explained that this mobile represented how “everyone is created equal. God made us in his image and loves us equally.”
Fall — Brokenness
What broke? How has God’s order been disrupted? How can it be represented?
The students who created this mobile explained that, “one person is higher than the other. The same people from creation, but because people sinned, they are no longer treated equal. In the Civil War, God gave us a chance to be equal, but we didn’t take it, so he gave us a second chance through Martin Luther King Jr. and now today we are still kind of facing the same thing.”
Redemption — Healing
How is Christ working to put this back on track of His original plan? What is God doing about it? How can it be represented?
This group explained that in their mobile, “the medic kit stands for redemption. Basically redemption is when Papa broke his leg. He had to heal and it made him stronger.”
Restoration — New Life
How do we respond to God’s call to join him in the restoration process? How shall we live? How can it be represented?
The students who created this mobile explained that, “this represents Jeremy’s flute because Jeremy gave the flute to Stacey because this could be a new friendship and/or the restoration of a friendship.”
Mrs. Naylor was very impressed with the images they came up with and their comments while presenting and working on these projects. “I want the students to take away an understanding that God is in all things, even novels. If God is seen in all things, then the students will continue to build their understanding of the concept that God is also in their lives and knows them completely,” she explains.
“My deep hope is that we understand we are known by God and confident of His love and acceptance which leads us to extend that to our community”
“My thought is that if we know we are known, loved and accepted by God, then we can make healthy friendships, learn academically, and accept others in our community,” says Mrs. Naylor. “Middle school years are tough. Students are just starting to figure out who they are and are grasping for different identities. My hope is that God will speak to them about their identity and that these will be foundational years for many of them to build their current and future Christian walk on.”