Trey Sullins, a local children's minister, presented a few weeks ago at a seminar I attended.
Trey believes that spiritual education must equip us to handle the most difficult questions life can hurl at us. Those questions arrive early for many of our children, and we do them a disservice if we teach them only a watered-down version of faith that can't hold up under trial.
Trey told us about a summer program focused on the theme that God always loves us, but there are days on which He does not choose to protect us.
A powerful illustration of this principle centered on the story of Stephen, stoned to death by an angry mob in the streets.
In order to free up their throwing arms, the mob laid their coats at the feet of a young man nearby. His name was Saul.
Even in God's unfailing compassion, He did not protect Stephen from evil on that day, because a larger plan was unfolding.
Trey asked the kids whether what Saul witnessed on that day would have stayed in his mind for a long time. They said yes.
Perhaps images of that murder of a gentle man flashed on Saul's blind retinas when he lay prone on the road to Damascus. How often did Saul think of Stephen's last words of forgiveness, as Saul sat in his blindness and neither ate nor drank for three days?
On the days when God chooses not to protect us, it's hard not to rant or sob: "How can THIS work for good?"
But as Trey so concisely reminded us, it's always good. We just can't always see it.
I don't remember the ages of the children Trey taught this difficult lesson, but after listening to him speak, I know I'd trust my own child to his judgment and his loving spirit.
Hard questions unanswered can blow a child's faith right over a cliff.
Hard questions faced squarely will give a child iron handholds and footholds on the rock.
I'm grateful for those dedicated teachers like Trey, with such selfless love for children.
Do you know one? Tell me about a great teacher. So often, their efforts go unrecognized, but they mean everything to the children who pass through their care.