But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
What is it about a child that makes them so pleasing to God and acceptable to his kingdom? I mean, really? Perhaps, at least in part, it’s because they sincerely depend on our personal, immediate, and intimate attention. They haven’t been conditioned to substitute that human touch for the continuous squawking mantras of our culture that get hammered into us day in and day out. Mantras, dogmas, doctrines, creeds, codes, tenets and canons…all of which we rely on for guidance through the world’s obstacles. But, they can also abrogate the benefits of personal observation, independent thought and sincerity derived from “living in the moment” with one another…and with God. Children have fresh eyes and respond from the heart. It makes me wonder, “Can religious maturity separate us from the kingdom of God?”
I have spent a considerable amount of time looking for God’s presence and evidence of his kingdom…and not in the usual places. I’ve traveled over a lot of road in the process…some of it has been pretty rough. Thirty years in police work and surviving cancer would force anyone to get knocked around, shaken and forced to look at things most people either never see or otherwise appreciate. Those who’ve done the same can tell you it can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. During such explorations of life, I have repeatedly stumbled into one of God’s puddles or taken sojourns into one of his dens for shelter. Each time, I get a little on me. It has been his tendency to reveal himself in bits and pieces. But, he’s done so enough to catch my attention, peak my curiosity and kindle my desire to experience more. It’s a perspective that some people find interesting. But, not to worry…now is not the time for a testimonial. I’ve found they have their limits. Sharing our personal spiritual experiences and walk with the Lord is much like sharing photographs of our last vacation…unless you were actually there, the significance doesn’t always survive the telling. The point here is that I’ve shared the ebb and flow of an ongoing conversion experienced by many, if not most, in my own little dramatic way.
Many times, after a sudden loss, an unexpected death, an unforeseen violent episode, a near brush with death or catastrophic event, there is a moment when the dust settles and we become calm. Our senses become acute. Our minds replay the experience, sometimes at hyper-speed, trying to analyze and understand what has happened. The event has taken us out of our normal routine, removed a familiar sense of security, torn us away from a previous paradigm and dissolved our sense of control over our own destiny. It’s during these times when we tend to ask ourselves, “What was that all about and what do I truly believe?”
When all the theology, liturgy and preaching subsides, we are ultimately left with our experiential examination of the tangible world around us; balancing pleasure, birth, and creation with suffering, death and destruction. It’s easy to maintain faith in things, and in God, when things go well. It’s in despair and pain that we are challenged with what we really believe. Never mind what our pastors say, what was taught in Bible study, or what Mom and Dad taught us. The proposition of God is not just a casual notion…it’s an immediate, demanding, overwhelming necessity. God gets personal and in our face. I remember when I didn’t know if I was going to live or die, I got aggressive in my prayer and told God I didn’t have time for piecemeal revelation of his presence. That was one time when I wasn’t satisfied with being slipped into his in-box, put on hold or put in the “pending” file. I needed to be front and center with a highly charged expectation of feedback…now! I was so worked up that it wasn’t until afterwards that I heard him say, “Oh, there you are.” And, like my grandmother used to do when I was little, He bent down, patted my head and said in hushed tones, “Okay, okay, let’s see what we can do…”
The other day, someone posted something on line that read, “My real name is Mom. But, to my three-year-old I’m Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom!!!” I can only imagine what God’s posting would sound like.
During the late seventh century, charlatans in old England (Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, and East Anglia) used to sell small “magic” bags containing shards of iron to the public with the promise that the scrap metal would turn to silver if they slept with the bags under their pillows. One such con artist is said to have proclaimed, “Folk don’t buy rusty iron because I’m persuasive, but because they desperately want to believe it will turn to silver.”Desperation and desire…
Faith, of whatever kind, seems to persist from our insistent use of hope to overcome desperation. Without periodic anxiety, we tend to retreat into a superficial spiritual malaise, lean on the latest snappy church slogans and wallow in after-Sunday-service coffee and donuts. Sponsoring sports leagues, organizing youth groups, and holding seasonal feasts of one kind or another are great for socializing and inspiring a sense of community. But, we’re missing a tremendous evangelism opportunity if we don’t have competent support personnel on-call and available for response to traumatic occurrences in people’s lives. I have personally seen the benefits of such assistance. I have also seen the sad results when people are turned away due to a lack of such services or worse when it’s the result of clerical apathy. And we wonder why they don’t come back?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4