In my household, we’ve developed a habit of hollering to each other when we’re in different parts of the house. Inevitably, the person doing the yelling becomes frustrated because it seems as if the person being spoken to isn’t listening. Perhaps you experience something similar in your home. We all want to be heard when we speak. Not being heard isn’t a great feeling. Drawing on the Israelites’ disappointment when they believed God wasn’t listening to their concerns as they wandered through the wilderness, this lesson gives children a chance to recognize that God is always listening to us.
Begin the time with your children by talking about the experience of not being heard. Ask them to share a time when they were speaking to you or to someone else, but it seemed as if they were not being listened to. How did this make them feel? Why might the person not have responded? Then share a time when you were talking to your child, but he did not hear you. Share how this made you feel. Give your child an opportunity to explain why he didn’t respond. Explain that we all want to be heard when we speak. Even if there is a good reason why the person we are talking to doesn’t reply to us, we can still feel frustrated, sad or even mad.
Read aloud Exodus 17:1-7. Before you begin reading, explain that this story takes place while the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness. God has freed them from slavery in Egypt and has promised that his representative, Moses, will lead them to a land that will be theirs forever. They have been walking for a long time and have become irritated and hopeless. They think that God has forgotten about them. They are tired and thirsty. After you have shared the Scripture reading, ask your children if the Israelites were right. Did God abandon them? It appears from the story that God did not forget the Israelites. In fact, God listens to them and honors their request for water. God does it in a fantastical way to remind them they have not only been heard but are also cared for. Ask your children to share times when they realized God was listening to them. Remind them that God always hears us. This may not always seem to be true, but we can be reassured through stories like this one that God listens.
As a reminder of God’s promise to listen, create “listening stones.” If you are able, go outdoors together as a family and gather small, flat stones. Each stone should be smooth and at least three inches wide. You can also collect stones to use prior to the activity if that is more convenient. Alternately, you can make your own “stones” using modeling clay. You’ll want to allow these to dry and harden before moving on to the next step. Using tempera paint, paint each stone. Have each person select a color that makes her feel peace and reassurance. Once the paint is dry use a fine point marker like a Sharpie to write “I’m listening” on each rock. Place the rocks somewhere in your home where they will serve as a reminder that God listens to us each time we speak. While God may not always respond by bringing water out of a rock, we can be assured that we have been heard and we will be cared for.
JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.