the Psalms are not G-rated and other thoughts on literature

They wash the mud from their feet, and the sweat from their brows in the delightful warmth of showers; and they crawl into bunk beds and snuggle under feather covers and poke tumbled heads back up for kisses. Each simple gift of bedtime in our world is nothing less than extravagant luxury – and we, the blessed, are full of praise; and we whisper it into the night and into God’s ear, our gratitude for all He has given.

David begins to read aloud, the book Naomi picked from the library shelves, Huckleberry Finn. And it doesn’t take us more than a few pages of reading to discover that this book speaks difficult words and it faces, head-on, difficult issues and it is a bit embarrassing to give voice to. Makes us ashamed to be humans in at least a few places. David pauses and takes time to read the history of the book online and we discover it is one of the most controversial books in history and there are still many fighting to ban it. We are not surprised. The “N” word is frequent and we stop after the first mention and discuss it with the children and explain where it came from and how it has been used and why it is disrespectful and vulgar and we will not read it again. David says he will read “Negro” instead, explaining the origin of that word and why it too is no longer used, and he reads it out, a few times, until Naomi stops him and proclaims that we will use “African American” from here on out because it is the most respectful description, and the ones her friends would choose. So we listen, in silence as David continues to read the tirades and rants of the father of Huckleberry Finn who hates those with dark skin and believes they are less than human. Somehow hearing the hillbilly accent and the poor grammar and the thoughtless, mindless, ignorant speeches with the term African American thrown in every few minutes is enough to make my sides want to split with laughter and yet the tears are just as close. And I am amazed and grateful at how far we’ve come . . . . far enough that small children can identify from a mile away the sadness of this character’s perspective. And far enough that they can reform him too – they give him new words and they command that he speak them.

We end with a few chapters from the Psalms and although I am reading consecutively, I skip a few looking for the less depressing ones. The ones not so full of murderous thoughts. But Quinn, the great listener, picks up the gore which I have NOT censored, and asks questions. Questions I am too tired to answer and which really feel unanswerable anyway. He is concerned with justice and with the heart of God and with what makes him different when he too does bad stuff? And it is nine by now which is really too late to address, again, the law and it’s impossible requirements and how Jesus changed the way God sees us. But we do.

The Psalms are definitely not G-rated.

And bedtime, with active, curious, learning, thoughtful, questioning children, should never be viewed as a wind-down.

And now I too must rest.

1 thought on “the Psalms are not G-rated and other thoughts on literature

  1. My sister tells the story of when she was reading little red riding hood to her daughter. Not the abridged disney version, but from a Brothers Grimm collection. She found herself editing, and then she’d get to a new part that didn’t make sense with the changes she had made, so she edited some more. By the time she got near the end of the story, she just put the book down and made up her own ending! I told her that her daughter would be ticked when she learned to read it for herself and realized she had fabricated the whole story!

    Kudos to you for engaging in the hard stuff with your kids. And taking time to process the ugliness instead of smooth over it. They are so intuitive anyway, it is so better for them to have the tools to choose to love others and to be able to negotiate their own hearts. But it takes so much courage! Great job!

    And thanks for sharing the story. It encourages me in similar daily choices with my kids.

Leave a Comment