I just can’t imagine God saying, “Sit down and shut up!” Can you?
Or, “Children should be seen and not heard.”
Or even, “Sit still and mind your manners.”
Yes, we are children, daughters and sons of the Most High. But, “sit up and eat your peas,” just isn’t the conversation I expect to have at the table with God. Odd, though, that if we grew up in harsh strictness and belittledness, if we were ignored, disrespected, or God help us, abused, this notion of being children at the right hand of a father takes on an unwelcomeness. In self-preservation we learn to keep quiet and stay out of the way.
God has never been a God of self-preservation. Certainly not for children.
Yes, holy discipline surely is God’s kindness, that we learn to observe boundaries, respect rules and honor elders helps it go well for us. But sit still and be quiet … that just doesn’t feel like God to me.
In the space at God’s feet there is plenty of space to get the wiggles out. I imagine God chortles at my antics and shakes a head at my mischief, but confines me to one square foot on the rug? Nah. No loving parent would think that a good thing for a child.
And I am that Child.
To me, God has always said, go ahead and move. It’s way easier, then, to guide me in the right direction. That way, overcoming inertia will never be God’s problem with me.
My book, Made to Move: Knowing and Loving God Through Our Bodies, takes this approach. God made us to move and, through movement, to learn about and grow into ourselves. Of course, once we’re mature, a good dose of self discipline can help us still the outside so we can attend to the movement inside.
Lungs…expanding and releasing.
Muscles…stretching and lengthening.
Joints…relaxing and allowing.
Blood… coursing and flowing.
Thoughts…expanding and defining.
And there’s life itself, feeling kind of like it did when we were a kid. I am God’s kid and so are you. Let’s go ahead and act like it.
Mommy, when you are a hundred, will you be as tall as the clouds?
This, my little daughter asks me from her seat on the swing in our backyard. Her sweet up-turned face looks past me to the billowing clouds overhead. To her, growing up means growing taller so she can reach the monkey bars unassisted and ride all the rides at the theme park. Surely 100 years should be enough to reach those clouds, she concludes.
While our growing taller comes to an end during our teens and early twenties, our growth doesn’t stop then; it merely goes undercover. Throughout our lives, our bodies are busy reshaping, remodeling and renewing themselves, not only to heal after injury or illness but as a regular practice. Cellular turnover is part of our programming.
This notion always came as a surprise to the students in my anatomy class who, though quite a bit more advanced than my small daughter, generally assumed that once they stopped growing up they started growing old. Actually, there’s a whole lot of reconstruction going on.
Even our bones, which seem the deadest of things thanks to archaeological excavations and Halloween decorations, are active and changing our whole lives long. Even when they aren’t growing longer, they’re growing stronger in response to the pushes, pulls and pressures they endure. It’s the beauty of weight-bearing exercise. We’re designed to fortify ourselves. What breaks down gets rebuilt, only stronger, given sufficient time, good design and quality building materials. We are always undergoing renovation.
We call this maturation, and I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be a total make-over of body, mind and soul.
Kids think that once they’ve grown up they’re grown-ups, figuring they may have some “filling out” to do but otherwise they’re ready to take on the world. We, who have spent some time in the maturing phase, know that the growing never stops. Though we’re not getting any taller, we’re always remodeling and reorganizing: filling in gaps, replacing old notions, and fortifying things in light of new information.
We who have reached our full height are meant to be filling in: building spiritual muscle, agility and fortitude as God reshapes it along with our minds, hearts and souls. We are clay in the hands of the potter, teaches Jeremiah 18. A contemporary retelling might call us plastic, hardened at room temperature, but pliable at God-temperature.
God’s not done with us yet. That’s such very good news. God’s continually defining and refining, affirming and growing us, inside out, as we will let Him. That’s not just for our own good, but for the good of all of our relationships, including the precious ones we have with the generations to come.
They’re sure to ask us in Sunday school or confirmation class, around the dinner table or after ball practice, on their graduation day or on their wedding day, “Mom and Dad, do your think you’ll ever be able to touch the sky?” They ask, not because they really think we will, but because they want to. And they can’t see ever doing it without us.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Oh my yes, little girl, there’s every chance I will reach those clouds because, thanks to God, we’re both still growing.
What an important question posed by the Ali Michael, author of an online post entitled What Do we Tell the Children? Its advice lingers in my mind. Here are her talking points:
- Tell them we will protect them. Tell them that we have democratic processes in the U.S. that make it impossible for one mean person to do too much damage.
- Tell them you will honor the outcome of the election, but you will fight bigotry. Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school.
- Teach them how to be responsible members of a civic society. Teach them how to engage in discussion—not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of understanding and being understood.
- To ease their minds, remind them (and I am paraphrasing) that people cast votes for lots of different reasons.
Let me just say, God BLESS all of you who are serving on the front lines with children who, because of the election outcome, fear for their families, themselves and their futures. In the name of all children I am considering this question: What do we tell the children?
The answer I hear in our nation is:
- Sometimes adults may say this, but you shouldn’t.
- Sometimes adults might do this, but you shouldn’t.
- Sometimes adults watch this, but you shouldn’t.
- Hey kids! This is adult stuff. You’re too young to understand.
And by ‘adult’ we mean… These are “adult drinks,” this is “adult entertainment,” this is for “mature audiences only,” caution there is “adult language.” These are “adult issues” kids, don’t bother your little heads about these things. The adults are here to protect you.
Are we? Are we entitled to engage in all these behaviors, dabble in all these things, and then excuse ourselves because we are being “adults”? Do we really think our kids are this naive?
The term family values has been bantered about and, apparently, has gotten the boot from our political process because we can’t agree on its proper usage. But what if we used our children as the litmus test for our own behavior? What do we tell the children about what’s going on in their world? in our world? in the world we are meant to share?
Early this morning, I got my first word on the election results via WhatsApp from my young adult daughters who were distraught, saddened, angered and fearful. Instantly, my brain went blank and my vision was clouded by the tears of an unbidden prayer. “I’m so very, very sorry for the world you have inherited,” I responded. “PLEASE go and change it.”
As one devastated mom I set out on a very long run-walk. Two hours later I returned wondering this: If my life were a prayer, how would I live it? After all, my life is what people see. Some of those people are children.
If my life were a prayer, how would I live it?
May God forgive us and help us forgive each other that we might draw closer and do better, ever to praise His Holy Name.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. ~ Ephesians 5: 1-5