This summer was my daughter’s first Vacation Bible School. VBS is a more elaborate production than it used to be, so naturally it comes with an official soundtrack and everything.
The CD has been in rotation in our car ever since. Thankfully, it’s pretty good. The songs are a mix of originals, a couple jazzed up hymns, and a few modern worship tunes. They’re actually kind of catchy.
Most of the songs are about God’s love. I am all for my daughter singing about that. And she does, because she knows every word by heart.
However, there’s one song—or more precisely, one line of one song—that made us pause, quite literally. The Hillsong anthem “Forever Reign,” which opens with these lyrics:
You are good, you are good
When there’s nothing good in me
I didn’t even notice the words till I heard them in my daughter’s voice.
There was something jarring about hearing my 4-year-old sing, “There is nothing good in me.”
So my wife and I started skipping to the next track when “Forever Reign” would come on. Our daughter noticed and asked us why. We told her we didn’t think it was right to say there’s nothing good in us—that even though we all do bad things sometimes, God made us good.
The message seemed to sink in. Now it’s gotten to the point where, if we forget to skip the track, Elizabeth shouts a reminder from the backseat, followed by a lecture on how God made us good.
There are plenty of voices in our culture telling children—girls especially—that they are no good, that they are worthless, useless, of no value. Christian culture shouldn’t be one of them.
It’s not that I don’t believe in sin. I believe every one of us is affected by sin. I believe that in varying ways and to varying degrees, we are both victims of and participants in the brokenness of our world.
But this is not where our story begins. It begins in Genesis 1, not Genesis 3. It begins in a garden, not in a wasteland. It begins with God so taken by the goodness of creation that he cannot stop singing about it.
“It is good.”
“It is very good.”
God’s light permeates everything and everyone. No amount of evil can fully eradicate goodness from creation. No amount of darkness can fully shut out the light.
No matter what else may be true about us, God made us good.
Which is where my friend Matthew Paul Turner’s new children’s book comes in.
God Made Light is my new favorite answer to religion that says, “There is nothing good in you.” This book recaptures the magic and wonder of creation—something all too often lost in our theologizing about sin and our debates about origins. Matthew writes near the beginning:
In flickers and flashes,
in spills and in splashes,
shine began shining across
nothing but blackness.
Light glared and glimmered.
It flared and sparkled.
And wherever light shined,
dark stopped being dark.
Both the story and the vivid art by Matthew Paul Mewhorter connect the light of creation to the light that lives in each of us:
When God said, “Light!”
the universe lit up,
a dazzling display
of big shiny stuff.
And all that light,
every bright golden hue—
did you know that God put that
same light inside you?
God Made Light was rejected by 11 different publishers, so Matthew decided to publish it himself. In its first week, it broke into the top 200 bestsellers on Amazon. (Sometimes, the good guys DO win.)
The other night, I read God Made Light to my daughter for the first time. She chose it again for bedtime the following night. (Matthew, in case you were wondering whether you were capable of writing the kind of book about God that kids would want to read again and again…)
There are three or four places in the book that talk about God’s light shining inside us. Every time Elizabeth and I get to one of those pages, the expression on her face changes. Her eyes light up (pun intended, sorry). She puts her hands over her heart, as if feeling the warmth of light inside her.
My daughter knows it’s not true when others sing, “There is nothing good in me.” She knows she’s not perfect; but she knows that God made her good, that his light hasn’t stopped shining, and that she radiates that light simply by existing.
Every child needs to hear this. God Made Light should be required bedtime reading.
Note: Matthew was kind enough to send me a copy of God Made Light, for which I’m very grateful. I can already tell this is going to be one of those books that stays with my daughter for years to come.