Every week at the 10:15 service at Community UCC, I invite the kids to come forward, and I share a lesson with them for a few minutes before they run off to children’s choir. One Sunday, I asked the kids how they were doing and one girl responded, “My pants are too tight!”. I looked at her honest face and couldn’t help but smile. I replied, “My pants are also getting too tight, but that’s because I’ve been eating too many desserts”. The adults in the room laughed, but she didn’t get the joke because to her, tight pants aren’t a joke. She was legitimately telling me how she was doing, and I was making a joke out of it. At some point, I learned that people will laugh if I make fun of myself, but her mind is still pure and unencumbered with the complexity of irony, sarcasm, and self-defence mechanisms. I don’t know if I could be that unguarded if I tried. I make jokes to hide the fact that I am self-conscious about my body, but she has not yet learned to be ashamed of who she is.
This week, before I could say anything to the kids, a different girl looked at me with a completely serious face and asked, “Pastor Zack, do you ever watch The Muppet Babies?”. I told her that I used to watch the Muppet Babies all the time when I was her age and I still love the Muppets to this day. She breathed out a sigh of relief, and said matter-of-factly, “OK good. My Mom has it on her iPhone and we like watching it a lot too”. I can imagine her sitting next to her Mom during the beginning of the service thinking about the Muppets and wondering to herself, “I wonder if Pastor Zack likes the Muppets too. I should ask him”. That is just fantastic, and I’m so glad that their parents brought them that Sunday.
These kids who are so concerned with the tightness of their pants and the lives of tiny Muppets are absolutely vital to the Church, and we would be lost without them.
Kids remind us to be unabashedly excited about things. They remind us that wonder and beauty are all around us. A kid can take a cardboard box and have fun all day. I always wanted to be a scientist, so I found opportunities to make believe that I was a scientist all the time.
I keep a box of crayons and a pad of drawing paper in my office so that kids will have something to do while their parents and I talk. I have never once seen a kid refuse a box of crayons. As Picasso put it, “Every child is an artist”, but as we grow older, we start worrying about what other people think and we learn to feel bad about ourselves. We learn to be ashamed of what we love and hide it away in our journals. We learn to hide our lack of self-esteem by making fun of other kids who are really into things like poetry, science, math, reading, music, and theater while always being worried that someone is looking down on us. Growing up can be hard, and any teenager can attest to that, but our kids remind us of the ideal that many of us lost sight of long ago.
As adults, we are often weighed down by the responsibilities of jobs, relationships, old pains, insecurities, doubts, and constant worry, but our kids remind us that we are all children in God’s eyes, and maybe we need to start realizing that we are not nearly as grown up as we think we are. Jesus once said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. Our children are a constant reminder to remember the wonder and awe that surrounds us. Their wide-eyed, whole-hearted faith is an example to all of us. Can we maintain that level of trust in God’s love while also digging deeper into the complexities of God? I sure hope so!
So, to all of the parents of young children who continue to bring them to church, THANK YOU! I see you trying as hard as you can to keep your kids entertained and quiet during the service. I see the look in your eyes in the morning as you walk in ten minutes late because your kids refused to get ready on time. I see the embarrassment on your face when people look at you because your baby won’t stop making happy little baby noises.
I see you.
I see you every Sunday, and I thank God for you every day. Thank you for bringing your kids up in our big church family. I pray that the church is a safe and happy place for them to grow up and discover who God has created them to be. I pray that we adults are listening to their little voices, because in the midst of all of the seemingly unimportant talk of pants and Muppets are some of the most important words that we need to hear. We like to think that we have grown up and left all that childish nonsense behind us, but what else did we leave behind in the process? I wonder…
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake. Be careful that you don’t look down on one of these little ones. I say to you that their angels in heaven are always looking into the face of my Father who is in heaven.
~Matthew 18:1-6 & 10