Monday, February 9, 2009
We were all children
"Jesus took a child and stood among them. Then he took the child up in his arms and said to his followers, 'Whoever receives one of these little children in my name, receives me.' " Mark 9:36-37
Before the holidays, my aunt Joy lent me several albums of old family photos so that I could scan them, clean them up and make copies for family members. It was painstaking work since many of the old photos had been bent, torn, water damaged and faded. It was also exhilarating and quite frightening some of the time. I saw images of my aunts and uncles, my grandparents and great grandparents as babies and children. I could recognize familiar characteristics in these photos - characteristics I see in my children and myself. I also saw all of the adult posturing of my mom and her siblings in their childish postures. All of their characters were completely present when they were very small, including the peculiar quirks and fetching mannerisms, all there from the very beginning. And I also saw emerging the child that they still are - the one that needs a special kind of attention and welcome.
Jesus takes a little child in his arms and tells those who will listen that in welcoming and receiving a child, we welcome Jesus. I used to think this meant welcoming innocence, playfulness and tenderness. Now I realize it means much, much more. For the children my parents and their siblings were, these are the ones who still need to be welcomed by faith communities and by God. The bravado, the polish and the skills aside, it is the quirky, uncoordinated, goofy, slightly spastic children that present themselves before God, no matter what we see present at the time.
Today, I ask God to help me see behind all the defensive barriers that adults construct. Help me to see the children as they are, as they present themselves to God - open, vulnerable and slightly afraid. May I be brave enough this day to offer my real self, the little child that I am to God. May we all have the courage to see others as God see them, as little smudged up, awkward children, arms reaching up, aching to be held by Jesus.