As this school year begins, so does a new session of religious education at church, and I have the somewhat daunting task of telling the kiddos in youth group why God is worth their time. Why come learn more about faith when they could be playing volleyball or watching YouTube? Why does this all matter?
The answer begins with covenants. Not the covenants that say you can't paint your house neon green if you live in Hilton Head Plantation, but the covenants that God has made throughout history that prove he keeps his promises.
The Old Testament is full of examples of God's faithfulness. Consider the very beginning -- when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world. Immediately, God assures the serpent that this isn't over, that he will "put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
Just a few verses after original sin, God promises to send a redeemer. When Mary says "yes" to the angel Gabriel and bears the son of God, the offspring of a woman defeats the serpent once and for all.
There are more amazing examples of God keeping his promises in seemingly impossible circumstances. The book of Genesis continues with the story of Noah -- which, thanks to Hollywood, we're now all at least vaguely familiar with. More than a floating zoo, Noah building the ark was a huge act of faith. Faith that if God told him to build a 440-foot-long ark he should do it -- even if there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Faith that saved him and his family when the world was destroyed.
God also kept his promise to Abraham. Abraham and his wife Sarah were 100 and 90, respectively, and had no children. Yet God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many. This seemed like a laughable and even cruel thing to tell a childless couple, yet Sarah went on to have a son, Isaac. Then, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test of faith. Walking up the mountain where Abraham believes he will have to slaughter his son, Isaac -- blissfully unaware of the day's agenda -- asks Abraham where the sheep is for the sacrifice. Abraham's reply is one of faith, answering that "God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust" (Genesis 22:8).
As Abraham takes out his knife, an angel of the lord stops him from slaughtering Isaac, saying "do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son" (Genesis 22:12). Abraham -- childless until the age of 100 -- went on to be abundantly blessed, with numerous descendants, because he was generous with the most precious gift God had given him.
These aren't just stories about old guys in robes with beards. These are stories of our ancestors in faith discovering that they had been created by God out of love, and pursued by God even when they sinned (and man, did they sin. This is the "G-rated Saturday morning and your kids might read this so I'm saving you having to answer the tough questions over pancakes" version of these stories. Consult Genesis for more).
But even when they sinned -- just like when we sin -- God doesn't look at us as a failed transaction, he only sees the covenant he has made, promising that he belong to us no matter what.
This is why I tell the kiddos God is worth it -- worth skipping volleyball, putting away their phones and worth waking up for on Sunday morning. Because God has kept his promises and when we place ourselves in the story, we can see that he continues to do so. History is full of God's faithfulness; he deserves faithfulness from us in return.
Follow columnist Alison Griswold at twitter.com/alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.