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.