Mr. Bustard took a triangular shaped bar of glass from his briefcase. “Does anyone know what this is?" he asked as the four children in his class examined it.
“Is it a mirror?" asked Anisa.
“No, it's not a mirror;” replied Mr. Bustard.
“It's a paperweight,” answered Nabil.
“No, it's not that. Do you have any idea what it is, Phillip or Sarah?"
They both shook their heads.
“This is called a prism. Can anyone guess what a prism does?"
Phillip raised his hand. “A prism is where they put people who break the law,” He giggled at his joke.
Mr. Bustard laughed too. “That's very funny, Phillip, but that's a ‘prison' not a ‘prism'." He spoke the two words distinctly so the children could hear the different sound. “A prism is used to separate light into different colors. Did you know that the light coming from this lamp contains all the colors of the rainbow?” He positioned the prism near the lamp and tilted it so it caught a ray of light. A rainbow of colors suddenly appeared on the opposite side. He held up a piece of white cardboard on which to reflect the different colors. The children were fascinated.
Mr. Bustard set down the prism and flipped over the piece of cardboard. There was a word printed on it.
“Can anyone pronounce this word?" he asked the class. Sarah raised her hand. “Yes, Sarah, tell us how to pronounce it.”
“Attribute,” she said very assuredly.
“Very good. Can anyone tell me what an attribute is?"
The children sat quietly. Sarah wanted to answer but wasn't sure she could explain it clearly.
“An attribute describes something,” Mr. Bustard continued. “If we say a person is ‘kind', that is an attribute. If we describe someone as ‘happy-go-lucky', that is his or her attribute. Can anyone think of other kinds of attributes that people have?"
“Pretty?" Anisa answered questioningly. She wasn't certain she understood the idea yet.
“That's right,” Mr. Bustard reassured her.
“Quiet,” said Nabil.
“Sad,” Phillip said loudly. He was sure of his answer.
“You're all correct,” said Mr. Bustard. “Those are all attributes of people. God also has attributes. Can anyone think of an attribute of God?"
Sarah raised her hand quickly. “Love. God is love.”
“That's exactly right. Love is one of the most important attributes of God. God loves all of us and He wants us to love Him.”
“Mighty and Powerful,” said Phillip. “The prayer says He is ‘the Mighty, the Powerful.’"
Mr. Bustard began to write the words the children came up with on the board. With a little help from him, they soon had a long list: love, might and power, peace, justice, beauty, forgiveness, joy.
Mr. Bustard decided the children understood the idea so he continued. “Look at all these words we use to describe God. We talk about the Oneness of God, but He has many attributes. How can that be?"
“He's like the light,” said Nabil. “The light is many colors, but it looks white.”
Mr. Bustard knew that the demonstration of the prism had been successful. He picked up the prism and recreated the rainbow on the cardboard. “Let's pretend the light is God and all the colors we see are His attributes. This color is ‘love'." He pointed to the first color of the spectrum. “This one is ‘might and power'. Here is ‘peace' and next is ‘justice'. Then we have ‘beauty, forgiveness, mercy and joy'." He proceeded down the line of colors listing attributes of God. “The colors are many, but the light is one. So God is many things, but His reality is one.”
Mr. Bustard reached into his briefcase and took out the crayons and four cardboard circles four inches in diameter. “On these circles I have written an attribute of God. I want each of you to take one.” He spread them out on the table with the attributes turned down so the children could not see which one they got.
After each child had a cardboard circle in hand, Mr. Bustard continued. “On the blank side of the cardboard I want you to draw a picture to illustrate your attribute.”
The children thought for a few minutes and with some help from Mr. Bustard all were soon diligently at work. Nabil was busy drawing a flower to illustrate the attribute of “beauty". For “joy", Phillip made a smiling face. Anisa's idea of “love" was a big red heart and Sarah chose to draw a fluffy white cloud floating in a blue sky for “peace". When they finished, they shared them with each other and explained why they had chosen that symbol. Then Mr. Bustard punched two small holes at the top, threaded a piece of yarn through them and hung the pictures around each child's neck.
“Your assignment this week is to be an attribute of God;' he explained. “I want you to do something to show the attribute of God which is hanging around your neck. Think about it carefully, talk it over with your parents, and when we get together next week I want you to tell us what you did. Do you think you can do that?"
After a little more discussion, they all agreed they would try. Then Mr. Bustard took out his guitar and played a song he had written about the attributes of God.
“Did you carry out your assignment this week?" Mr. Bustard asked at the start of the lesson the following week. All four children indicated they had. “Good. Tell us about it. Would you like to start, Sarah?"
“My attribute is ‘peace'," she began. “Well, my two brothers and I sometimes get a little noisy at home. Sometimes we argue. This week I tried to be quieter than I usually am and I didn't argue with my brothers. Mom and Dad thanked me and said the house was more peaceful this week.”
“That's wonderful, Sarah. And what about you, Phillip?"
“I was ‘joy'. I talked it over with Dad and he helped me decide what to do. We went to visit an old man who lives alone. We brought him a nice apple pie. Dad said we made him happy.”
“Very good. And how did you show the attribute of ‘beauty', Nabil?"
“I bought a flower at the store and gave it to Grandma and Grandpa. They put it on the coffee table in their living room. Grandma said it made the living room look beautiful.”
“That was very nice. How about you, Anisa?"
“It was very simple. I hugged Mom and Dad every day and told them I loved them.”
“Children, I'm so pleased with what you did. Your ideas are all so clever. You all did a wonderful job. You see how we are needed to make the world a reflection of God's attributes. Without us, God's attributes would not appear. We are the ones who must express them. We can do things that show His love, beauty, peace and joy in the world. We are like the prism. God's light shines through us. We can decide to reflect the rainbow of His attributes or we can turn them off. Without them the world would be a dark place, wouldn't it?"
They all nodded enthusiastically.
(by Alvin N. Deibert; ‘Brilliant Star, March-April 1986; illustrated by Barbara Trauger)