As summer is sweeping in to a close, I find myself very protective of the final days I have with my children before we move in to the school year. For us this year feels big—epic. Liam goes to pre-K 3 days a week beginning after Labor Day… somehow my first-born at 37 weeks head full of perfect hair, snuggly, amazing-smelling baby has become a witty, kind, and brave 4 year old. I feel as if I snapped my fingers and the time just whooshed away. Each age has been so wonderful and new and full of challenges, and this year will be no different. I’m sure all parents feel this way about each age…but this 4 year old age seems too perfectly tender. Just before school, yet increasingly independent at each step.
I will always desire more time with my children, no matter how protective I am of the hours… I will always wish for more. I should admit, I am one who truly loves the time spent with them—they are my bright stars, my loves, my joys. The time we spend together as a family laughing, or really just sitting together, are my most treasured. They constantly amaze me at their resiliency, their softness, their will to create new things… but so much more they amaze me in their understanding. We sat in worship a few Sundays ago when the song “My lighthouse” played. Liam gently tugged at my hand and whispered in my ear as the chorus began, “This is why I don’t have to be afraid in my room when I sleep, mama.” Their world is much more vast and full than we often give them the credit as adults. Children are great warriors, experiencing the world around them with deep understanding of the darkness it can hold and yet still finding light and amusement in the swirling of dandelions in the wind as you blow on them, the grace in flying paper airplanes, and the magic of lightning bugs. They take ideas and form opinions; they model behavior and can tell right from wrong with a little teaching… they are impressionable. But perhaps even more importantly than us leaving an impression upon them, we should be learning from them.
Jesus chided the disciples who shooed the children from him, and pulled the children back to be among him. If we would become like a little child… we too might get to understand the greatness of our inheritance in the kingdom of God. To Jesus children are vital— and our ability to get in to His holiest places depends on our ability to see God as children do. In the book of Matthew, he writes…
1 At that time the followers came to Jesus. They said, “Who is the greatest in the holy nation of heaven?”
2 Jesus took a little child and put him among them.
3 He said, “For sure, I tell you, unless you have a change of heart and become like a little child, you will not get into the holy nation of heaven.
4 Whoever is without pride as this little child is the greatest in the holy nation of heaven.
5 Whoever receives a little child because of Me receives Me.”
The disciples were seeking to understand whom Jesus considered to be the greatest in the Kingdom of God and instead were reminded to reexamine their belief and become more like children. My favorite piece of this passage is the simple strand of words “put him among them” Jesus took a child and put him among his disciples—his most treasured friends, his confidants. He placed the child among his chosen disciples and asked if they might consider becoming more like the child and less like the men that they already were. I’m sure the disciples stood there a moment really pondering, “what on Earth could we possibly learn from this child, why aren’t we the great ones?!?!” But Jesus knew—he always knows.
Children possess an interpretation for the light of the Gospel that is unlike anything in this world. It is heaven-like… it is innate to them, their hearts are pure. They trust with little fear or doubt, they have the capacity for great faith and they believe in the miraculous. Consider for a moment what the kingdom of God might look like if we all took on the image of a child. Would there be more joy in the world, more appreciation for the simple? Would we believe better the goodness for which God promises to us? Would we live and walk out our true inheritance as little children who are greatest in the holy nation of heaven? Might we forgive more quickly? Would we experience more of what God has for us? Would we stumble and scrape our knees only to get back running and playing in life again? I believe if we put on the robes of the child, and walked in deeper levels of trust with God we would allow him to move more greatly through us.
For me, this passage encourages me to spend as much time as I am able with my children so I might be more like them. In chemistry class learning the properties of dissolving materials, you will hear this phrase that “like dissolves like.” It’s a simple reminder that when working with different solvents their polarity will often determine if one is easily dissolved in the other. The most basic example of this is oil and water. Oil is non-polar, water is polar. Oil does not dissolve in water or vice versa. They are not alike. Pour some blue food coloring into a glass of water and you will quickly have nice blue water throughout your cup. The dye is polar as well and easily dissolved throughout the water. Now, if Jesus is telling me to become more like my children so I might understand a much larger part of his Kingdom…the best way I know to do this is to be with them. To be so fully immersed in who they are and what they are doing so that we might both appear to be the same.
As I hang on dearly to these last two weeks without backpacks and school snacks, I find great joy in knowing that we have made this time before school really count. We have given it our all and as one of two vital parents in the Shetterley House, I am so immensely proud of the boy we have raised with Jesus’ help. Yes, we have done all the typical things a “Christian parent” should do—the praying and the teaching and the guiding to what is true, what is kind, what is loving. And I’m not downplaying them…all of those are really wonderful, vital things. But I have found deeper joy in knowing we have also slowed down a little, to enjoy each other—to become like each other. To let the belly laughs my 18 month old make when you pretend to steal her nose make us all tumble in to a pile of laugher. The eager smiles of a 4 year old staying up passed bedtime to watch summer movies with Mom and Dad making us beam and pulling him in to cuddle just a tad longer; moments that move my heart to a greater depth and understanding of the Kingdom. Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. All the faith we have prayed for my two and all my hope for their future would mean nothing without all the love we carry for each other in our hearts. Time is not wasted when we love our children-it may just be a ticket to a glimpse of heaven this side of Earth.
Flip 180 Pastor