This week, I continue to creatively engage with Scripture during the Season of Lent. Today, I journey with Jesus into his ministry. There are so many interesting stories to consider and imagine with. There are a plethora of stories to reflect and learn from. Maybe because I am a parent myself, I chose to reflect upon the story where Jesus welcomes the children. I put myself into the shoes of what it may have been like to be a parent witnessing the blessing of Christ upon my child. I wrote in the form of a memoir left to a child about this special encounter with Christ.
A reading from the Book of Luke:
People were bringing babies to Jesus so that he would bless them. When the disciples saw this, they scolded them. Then Jesus called them to him and said, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:15-17
I leave behind this cherished memory when life as I knew it changed dramatically. You see, news had been spreading about a man named Jesus, reported as the Son of God. This gossip seemed impossible and difficult to believe, yet people couldn’t stop divulging the miracles he was performing. In joyful whispers, stories were recounted of loved ones healed. His teachings were proclaimed as unusual and challenging. The message he came with was different than one ever heard before. Wherever he walked, people were stirred. His presence ignited vitality and a spark of conversation.
You were around the age of four back then. The age of testing limits and exploring curiosity. Your imagination was beginning to twinkle with all the immensity of the world around you. You chased butterflies and giggled in the rain. You ran after your siblings and snuggled in my lap. I couldn’t imagine life without your presence.
When we heard Jesus was headed to our village, the murmurs from home to home grew. A group of us decided we would journey out to hear his teaching for ourselves. Together in community, we began discussing what Jesus’ teaching might be like. We wondered what we could ask of this Jesus if we had the chance. Our focus turned towards you, the next generation. This would be our asking. Would Jesus bless you, the next generation? Our dialogue was full of excitement and trepidation as we contemplated how we might approach the Son of God. Would he even notice us and see our children? Could he know the deep love each parent had for their children? Could he understand the desire of our hearts that our kin be blessed in their life?
I remember the day clear as yesterday. We all traveled together, families with newborn babies to teenagers, to our synagogue. We arrived and there he sat, surrounded by his staunch followers, the disciples listening to his words. We crept in quietly and heard a snippet of his shocking words. He was proclaiming a deceitful tax collector who cries out for God’s mercy more justified in the eyes of God than that of a pious Pharisee who follows all the rules of fasting and giving. This seemed incredulous and intriguing! As we took our seats on mats, he immediately looked up at us, our large entourage, as if he was expecting us. His presence was welcoming, visibly joyful that we had gotten there.
The mothers with newborn babies went ahead, slowly, cradling their babies in the crooks of their arms. I was holding you, your head resting on my shoulder, your thumb in your mouth. You watched with great curiosity to see what was going on. As the young mothers were nearly to Jesus, a few of the disciples spoke up, scolding them to leave Jesus be. The mothers turned around frightened by the disciples rebuke. But then, they heard another voice. A voice they seemed to recognize from deep within. Jesus’ voice rose above the commotion, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.”
When some of the older kids heard Jesus’ invitation, they immediately ran towards him. I placed you down, you held my hand and we walked closer. When it was your turn, Jesus scooped you up onto his lap and smiled at you. Jesus took his time being with you. He laid his hands on your curly brown hair and closed his eyes. Then, he spoke words of love into your being. As he spoke, tears ran down my cheeks as I heard this immense blessing spoken over your life. He looked up at me and held my gaze for a moment. I sensed his deep peaceful love. I sensed he knew my heart.
Jesus’ time with each child was slow and deliberate. More tears were shed, laughter flowed and a reverent watchfulness ensued. When all children had been blessed, our families left from his presence. It was evident that something had changed for all of us. For me, when I witnessed Jesus freely declare his love for you, I envisioned myself in your place. In that instant, I knew I didn’t need to earn God’s love through good works. His love and mercy was offered freely to me through my earnest seeking. This was a shocking and life-altering revelation.
There was much reflective silence on our journey home. It was as if Jesus’ blessing hovered over all of us. As I walked, I kept thinking of Jesus’ invitation to welcome God’s kingdom like a child. I thought of you and your curiosity. The open way you receive new friends. Your willingness to learn. Your receptivity to my hugs and love. Your excitement over small details. Your delight in a single blade of grass. I thought, “Is this the unadorned way to experience the closeness of God in the here and now?”
From that day forward, I realized, it is not I who needed to teach you, but you to teach me. I began to observe your ways. Over time, I’ve practiced imitating your wonder at the simple pleasures of life. In so doing, I have seen a glimpse of God’s kingdom on this earth. Thank you, dear child, for this most precious gift.
What quality or interest did you have as a child that, as time has gone on, you have disconnected from? Is there a way to reignite this in your life?
With a Child:
Get a game out. Play with the rules the child decides on.