30
Jan
09

Reflection on Being Like a Child – Matthew 18:1-6

Author Howard Friend, in his book Recovering the Sacred Center, recommends the exercise of describing the church as persons – complete with identities, stories and histories. When I was reflecting on that some time back, this scripture and poem came to mind.

Matthew 18:1-6

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone …”

Recovery

by Andy Little

Children survive.
They just seem to be built to survive almost anything.
The pain of loneliness, war, crime, rejection,
being ignored, being abused, being smothered, being used,
predation, exposure, abandonment, over-protection,  -
these are just some of the things children endure.

 

But to do so requires they develop tools -
most of them facades – fake faces.
It is these false countenances and big walls
that, as adults, keep distance between us.
They protect the “us” we can’t risk showing the world,
the identities we forget exist as time moves on.
We show the safe “us”, the ones that can’t get hurt,
because they’re not real.

 

But hurt we do.
The void manifests as we become emptier.
And then, eventually, it dawns on us -
being an adult isn’t about being safe -
it’s about being real.
It’s about risk.
It’s about re-finding GOD.
Yes, eventually we realize -
if we can’t be honest with each other -
how can we trust anyone including GOD.

 

So eventually we learn to set aside our facades,
to show our soft underbellies,
to expose our pain and doubts,
to look longingly for GOD.
We find GOD’s been there the whole time – waiting for us.
We allow GOD to fill the void with joy.
Welcome back to being a child – now we’re ready for GOD.
Now we can survive anything.

 

It would seem entirely appropriate to substitute “churches” for “children”. Churches, individually and collectively, have suffered from all manner of painful experiences and developed protective facades to enable them to survive emotionally, usually by allowing themselves to gloss over the painful parts of their history. Not so much different than individuals.

Churches in the U.S., just like in much of the West, show signs of being somewhere in the process of recovery – recovery from addiction not necessarily sickness. Unfortunately, many times it seems as though we’re stuck in the denial stage. We worry about becoming insignificant and dying, and we frantically try to find the world’s solutions to the situations that leave us insecure and afraid. But we fail to recognize that it may be our own facades – our fake faces – that make us irrelevant.

We develop tools to deal with our insecurity – business models, marketing plans and consumer driven assortments of programs – worldly models to solve a numbers problem. It seems we’re still stuck in blaming everything and everyone else – in denying our own complicity in the plight we face.

 We are not yet at the stage where we can trust God completely. And so we trust only ourselves. Doesn’t it seem childish to believe that WE, humans, can plan for the survival of the church? Doesn’t it seem spiritually immature to think that, by copying the practices of a flawed political and economic strategy, WE will become the saviors of the church?  Hmmm – doesn’t the church already have a savior?

 So, maybe, its time to stop and be childlike – to be meek. By the way, that word in Greek doesn’t mean mild and diminutive – it means confidently humble and gentle. There’s strength in this meekness.

  Perhaps the church should have the strength to ask simple questions like who and what we really are called to be. Is survival of the institution as we know it the most important concern we should have? Maybe we should examine ourselves honestly – dare to expose our soft underbellies – to be truthful with the world and ourselves.

And risk – risk being the church God intended. Risk, in a foolish display of passion and commitment to Jesus Christ, allowing God to provide the plan and security while we simply worry about loving God and our neighbor at least as much as ourselves.

 Perhaps we should exhibit the kind of trust that God will heal and guide the church, despite not having the comfort of a material and quantifiable presence.

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2 Responses to “Reflection on Being Like a Child – Matthew 18:1-6”


  1. 1 Jyothi Prakash Ethakoti
    May 3, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    Dear Rev.Andy Little,

    You are simply wonderful ! That is my first reaction after I glanced through your insights on “Reflection on being like a child “.I came across your site as I was searching for the exposition on Mathew 18:1-6 for writing a sermon on “Knowledge of God is true wisdom ” to a certain denominational Christians with the lessons ;”Proverbs 3:1-18,James 1:508,16-18,Mathew 18:1-6″. I like your expression planning the survival of the church.I learned that we can never be the saviors of His church. I have got the starters for writing my sermon . Isn’t our God wonderful in creating Andys . I thank Him for your website. Ya ,He is wonderful as He has already said it. May God bless you and your ministry.

    fellow laborer in the Vineyard,
    jyothi prakash ethakoti


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... or, preaching from both ends

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That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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