“Don’t push these children away. Don’t get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this; Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” (Mark 10:14–15, The Message)
Many of you will know that I am a grandmother. We just have one grandchild—fondly referred to as "Best Baby Ever"—who is an unending source of joy. Last Sunday, he walked by himself for the first time. Let me set the stage for you:
Best Baby Ever has always loved to stand and for months has been most happy when you are holding both his hands to help him walk. A few weeks ago, he began to walk while only holding one hand. On Sunday, our son was helping BBE stand when he called out “Look!” and we saw our grandson standing on his own, then taking a few faltering steps. Of course, we all cheered and our son swept BBE up into a big hug, then put him down again so he could try again. The next time was different, though. There were no tottering, cautious, hesitant steps. Over and over, we watched that little boy, arms outstretched, laughing out loud, simply RUNNING into the arms of which ever family member he was pointed at.
This episode came back to me as I was contemplating what to write in this blog. I didn’t know exactly what it was that I was supposed to write about, but I was reminded of what happened to me when our own son was born. I have written about this before, so forgive me if you have already heard this story. My father had told me that I simply couldn’t understand how much he loved me unless I had children of my own, and although I didn’t believe him at the time, he was right. When I first held our son, I was flooded with love—more than I had ever imagined possible. My first thought was, “You were right Dad. I had no idea.” My second thought was, “If I had no idea how much my earthly father loves me, how much does my heavenly Father lover me?” This was a revelation to me and has influenced my spiritual life enormously.
As I meditated on this memory, I realized what it was about our grandson’s first steps that called to me. It was that little boy running into the arms of his father, the joy and delight on both their faces as well as the family around them. I thought to myself, “That’s what accepting God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child is like!” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be like that—running, with no fear of rejection or judgement or falling, straight into the presence of God?
What gets in the way of that? Oh, there are so many obstacles. Our own fear, our self-judgement, our doubt, our damaging experiences, our unbecoming actions, our sin—our flawed lives. We would be wise to remember the part of the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11–25, where the father welcomes his son home with joy and celebration. The only thing that gets between us and God is our own self. We would also be wise to remember that God is not only all-powerful, God is all-forgiving. It is no coincidence that we pray a prayer of confession each week as part of our worship service, and no coincidence that we are assured of God’s love and forgiveness. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus himself sympathizes with our weakness and we are told to “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16).
So, this week—I invite you to put aside your adult fears and preconceptions, take on the simplicity of a child, and run straight into the arms of God. Will you join me?