In recent months, I’ve found myself rather reflective. And it’s probably shown in my topics. A trip down prison memory lane, some existential pondering, and the frustrations of a white man with too much privilege to have valuable opinions… it’s been a bit much. And that’s all nothing compared to what I’m working on for next month. Hint: August is hot as hockey sticks here in the South.
The Purple Ball
Today I took my youngest on a grocery run. She saw a ball she liked, and I — being privileged with the required $2.99 in discretionary funds — bought it for her.
She literally clung to it for the next 30 minutes of the errand. She remained more attentive of its smooth purpleness than I often was of Clara’s shopping list, evidenced by the fact that she never once dropped it and I had to double back at least three times.
On the trip home, she was accompanied by her new companion in the back seat. Any doubts I had about my purchase evaporated when we got home and I repeatedly saw her hug this inanimate object with as much affection as she does for me.
It even joined her for nap time.
“Become like Little Children”
I’m hardly the first Christian to watch a child marvel at the world and wonder if Matthew 18:3 holds more depth than my jaded mind can consider…
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become
like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
But really, seeing a wide grin erupt onto my daughter’s face as she holds her ball aloft like a trophy, I wonder if I’m missing something.
Is the world so heavy? So dark? So threatening? So bad?
When I pick up my children from school or drop them off, the campus isn’t boiling over with a crushing awareness of human depravity. The children do not reek with fearful sweat over looming war or political challenge. I don’t see a river of tears threatening to drown kids in the lack that many of them face.
Wool over Eyes
Let’s be clear, now.
We adults know that children are often sheltered from the worries of the world. But when I bought my then-five-year-old a dictionary, the second word he wanted to look up was popular. As in “popular vote”, he told me. Six months after an election. They pick up on more than we think.
We adults like to think that their ignorance is like wool we’ve kept pulled over their eyes so they don’t have to face the weight of adulthood. But when I watch my little girl having a ball with a ball, or my son cheering on my wife as she plays a video game, or any of the hundreds of children in the school yard, you know what I don’t see? Fake smiles.
Don’t get me wrong: some of these kids are in a bad place. Some kids face educational challenges or bullies at school. Some go home to face abusive situations. And some wrestle with the adult things that force them to grow up too fast. But with only the rarest exception, even those children can find refuges of authentic joy in so many parts of life.
Our wisdom and experience guides us to pull the wool of ignorance over our children’s eyes. Yet perhaps in doing so, we shelter ourselves.
We have a hard time labeling it. We look at Psalm 46:10 (NIV)…
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
…and wrestle with how to even do such a thing. Be still? But look to the children.
Yes, those hyperactive misfits without functioning volume knob and with overactive imaginations that can only be played out with large body movements (anyone else have a boy? Or a girl?)… Have you ever seen them rapt?
It’s different for each kid. My daughter was held rapt by a ball today. Recently, I saw my son rapt by the pleasure of Clara opening a gift. They can engage with the present better than all but the most disciplined adult minds.
Perhaps we often choose ignorance of joy over ignorance of life. And while this is sometimes necessary at times, surely the world is not so holistically binary.
This week, I pray that God would help us all find joy in the world around us. Yes, even this fallen world afflicted with broken hearts, infected with cruel situations, and infested with evil men carries echoes of God’s beauty to appreciate.
Holy Spirit, help us all to be held rapt today. Help us have a ball.