Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chilrens and Villains

Mark 10:13-16(NIV) People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

I can love and serve a God like that.

The childlike heart is pure. It comes to the table without pre-conceived ideas or self-awareness. It often fails to recognize environment or protocol, but relishes the moment. I think Jesus loves the idea of the innocence that revels without prerequisites and loves without condition. I long for that place – spiritually and geographically. I know I’m headed there in my spirit, and I’m determined to invite others along to share it with me.

Consider for a moment the scene of our Savior in the scripture reference above. In the previous chapter, in Capernaum, Jesus had sat down with the disciples and took a child in His arms and said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” Now their subsequent 60ish mile travel across the Jordan into Judea probably took a few days, so when the kids began to boldly approach the Messiah, they had apparently forgotten his admonishment that if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble they should don the millstone bling.

The disciples may have discerned Jesus was wearied by the Pharisee’s cross examinations and was no doubt was ready to retreat into the house for some down time. As he was visiting with them about divorce and marriage, people started bringing their kids into him to touch and bless them. You see where this is headed right? Completely divorced from His earlier teaching, he has to re-instruct them on the value of being a little child and coming to him. He is never inconvenienced by our coming to Him. Again, He is never NOT home.

Many of these people had no doubt traveled long distances and were probably dirty and stinky from their journey. Even worse, since, as I understand it, pampers had not yet been invented, the likelihood is there were some unpleasant odorous encounters with some of their children. I’m pretty sure the nursery was closed. Scripture paints this beautiful picture of Jesus taking these children in his arms (up close and personal), just as He had done in Capernaum, placing his hands on them, and blessing them. In my mind’s eye, I can see Him blowing raspberries on toddler’s bellies and their laughter and snorts filling the air. I think I actually heard one *poot* from laughing so hard. What a scene, the Creator of the Universe in the house, lovin on kids. I can love and serve a God like that. But can I imitate Him?

I remember an incident when I was a young man in my mid-twenties. I was at my parent’s house with my wife Ally, and my sister Mary Ann, and her oldest son Joshua. I don’t remember the specifics surrounding the visit, but it was probably one of mom’s wonderful home-cooked meals. At some point little Joshua was putting his humanity on display as children will often do. Being the longsuffering self-righteous saint I was, I snapped at him in a very un-Godly way while providing rebuke with a fair amount of attitude and tone. My villainous assault became their momentary prison of pain.

Mary Ann reacted by loading Joshua up in the car and leaving; both now wounded and scarred, and I suspect a little indignant. I felt shame. As I recall we were on the phone within the hour, she explaining my encroachment and defending her son, and I offering my apology and owning my sin. While our relationships were restored, I still feel the sting of my offense even today. Regardless, her parental response was the proper one. It is on us, the community of believers, to not just suffer, but usher the little children unto Him, for such is the Kingdom of God.

The father worked something in me through that encounter. Over the years I have learned (for the most part) to love kids and let them be kids. When I find I’m irritated, it’s usually that a whole bunch of me is in the way. As we live in His Kingdom, it is so important that we give ourselves and others the freedom to fail and the forgiveness that follows. In that situation, my sister did for me what I was unable to do for Joshua in the moment – provide the environment where there is the freedom to fail. I know it is the heart of the Father to let us worship Him and commune in a way that is childlike, bringing palm leaves and shouting Hosanna, running and giggling as giddy kids on Christmas morn.

I think that is why I love Christ’s Mass – I get to celebrate His coming to me, and my coming to Him in a way that is full of surprises and treasures of love. And if I happen to get it wrong occasionally, I rejoice that His love endures throughout all generations. It even embraces the youngest one that is full of spunk and spit. I remember my manic days of immaturity which were followed by days of encounters with purity – the King of Heaven off His throne and in my living room changing my diapers and helping me do laundry. I can love and serve a God like that.


annabanana said...

My sweet, sweet brother-It is just like you to be hurt more by what you did that the one that you thought that you hurt. I know that you used this scenario to show your humanity. Your humanity is the reason that you are approachable not only by my children but by mankind in general. You have been the example of a Godly man that they needed. You have invested in them spiritually like no other man. You KNOW that only a man can do that for a man in the physical realm. When my children see you they see Christ. When my children are loved by you they know what it is to be loved by Christ. My children do love a man who can love a God like that. Thank you for being that to them. Thank you also for sharing the love of Jesus in this venue. You Rock because you love the ROCK!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

When you say "as we live in His Kingdom" do you mean the being within ourselves? I always thought of His Kingdom of not being of this world. Maybe I'm being too critical of the words, but I do catch your meaning. We shall see His Kingdom for sure, but for now all we can do is live as if we are being judged as Christians at all times.

Bless you brother Tim.

The Trailing Arbutus

Tim Michael said...

Anonymous said...
When you say "as we live in His Kingdom" do you mean the being within ourselves?

Dearest branch of the Vine (trailing arbutus) – As you flower and bear fruit/berries you will see the Kingdom has come to you. So when I refer to the Kingdom of God, I understand it to transcend geography, time, space, etc. I see it as coming to us as well as us "going there." Why else would He teach us to pray "Thy Kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven"? I long to see His Kingdom manifest in this earthen vessel of mine, and in this earthly planet as well, and the only way I see that happening is through his beloved bride. There is no debate that His Kingdom is not OF this world, but Praise His Name - it can certainly manifest IN it. Luke 17:21

Additionally, if I live my life authentically and am honest with others about who and what I am, I will not fear the “judgment” of others but will know and be known.

Love back to you as you grow and blossom in Him.