On Sunday I mentioned a poster, given to me by my grandfather when I was five, that hung on my wall most of my childhood. Here’s what it looked like (you can click to view it larger):
Here’s a slightly different English version, if you want to better understand the captions and Scripture references:
It’s not a perfect portrayal of Matthew 7:13-14 by any stretch of the imagination. It’s clearly dated, and I have some theological quibbles with the way a few things are represented.
And yet, looking back, I don’t think I can overestimate the influence that this single picture had on my life and thinking as I grew up. I’m sure I spent hours, over the years, studying it in detail. And every day, there on my wall, was a reminder of the fact that there were only two possible paths to walk in life. That this world was going to continually try to tempt and seduce me away from loyalty to Christ. That following Jesus was going to be really hard. That the reward in store for me was going to be surpassingly worth it.
Two key lessons spring to mind as I contemplate all of this. First, grandparents, don’t underestimate the influence you can have on your grandchildren. My Opa, as we called him in Dutch, was old and in quite poor health by the time I was born. In almost all of my memories of him, he’s just sitting in his easy chair listening to the radio. He certainly wasn’t a “fun” grandpa. He barely talked to us, let alone got down on the floor and played with us.
But this grandpa gave me a gift when I was five which was used by the Lord to profoundly affect my life. Little is much when God is in it. Invest your gifts, small as they are, and be amazed at what the Lord can do with them.
Secondly, don’t underestimate what children are capable of. Some people would have said that this painting was too mature for a five-year old, what with it’s portrayals of drinking and dancing, insinuations of sexual immorality, and, to top it all off, the terrifying depictions of hell in the top left. Was it intense? You bet—but so was the world I was about to head into. I’m so glad that my Opa didn’t shield me from reality.
This painting is the antithesis of Veggie Tales. And it’s what I needed. So parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers: don’t be afraid of telling kids the truth. Don’t feel the need to sanitize every Bible story. Kids are exposed to so much in today’s world, and this image helped prepare me, as a tender 5-year-old, for many things I would soon face.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to like this painting or agree with my grandpa’s choice to gift it to me. What does matter are the words of Christ which inspired it: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14). However you do it, make sure that your children understand those words and what they mean. Their life depends on it.