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Teachings from Toddlers

(Bible Study and Thoughts for "Let the Children Come to Me")

                        

During Christmas pageants, I love it when the littlest kids sing “Away in a Manger”—even if someone yells the words. I love it, too, when kids sing “Jesus Loves Me,” so beautifully full-out.

As an age-challenged adult, I’ve long wanted to learn what Jesus says children already show us.

The main Bible passage for “Let the Children Come to Me” is
Mark 10:13-16. In this story about Jesus, children who come to him for a blessing are immediately turned away by his disciples. Jesus rebukes the disciples for this, and invites the children to come and be blessed. Then He declares to the adults—saying “I tell you the truth,” so we pay attention!—that to enter God’s kingdom, we need to receive it as children do.

So the question arises, “What is it about children that Jesus wants us to imitate?”

We can identify any number of spiritually useful traits of children:
their ability to trust, humility, innocence toward evil, enthusiasm, teachableness, transparency, simplicity…. In the Bible story, actual children demonstrated what Christ meant, the same way one picture can be worth 1000 words. So, in my song, I’ve borrowed pictures of children, too.

In verse 1, we have a picture of a little girl taking her first trusting lunge toward walking. I hope that some of you adults have been in the parent’s role here. Doesn’t it stir your soul when a child is willing to “let go” to try stepping toward you? Don’t you wonder if our Heavenly Father feels the same compliment when we show that level of trust?

Verse 2 starts out with another picture of a child. It is actually a picture of my brother, years ago. When he needed help, he would zoom for our mom, bellowing like a siren. His singularity of focus reminds me of the story in Mark 5:24-34, in which a woman who’s suffered from bleeding for 12 years works her way through a crowd to reach Jesus. Simply touching Jesus’ cloak—she’s certain of it!—will heal her.

There is a demanding boldness in both scenes. You’ll find no question of ability to help or willingness to help. It’s simple: Moms make things better. Jesus will heal.

In the woman’s case, she doesn’t even plan to ask for Jesus’ healing; she’ll just get it by sneaking close enough to touch his clothing. Her plan seems a little less peculiar if you remember how Old Testament health rules kept women with their menstrual periods, or other bleeding, somewhat separated from the community (Lev. 15:25). So, maybe she did have to sneak through the crowd. But, doesn’t that make her seem all the more determined and bold?

One of my writing friends described the woman as “desperate.”
Indeed, the Bible passage says that the woman had already gone to many doctors over the 12 years, wasting time and money while
getting worse!

In Christian life, it often helps to see how desperate we actually are. Some things we face—health crises, addictions, severed relationships, the clenching grip of sins and selfishness, and of course, death—all reveal our powerlessness.

Pastor Laurie Skow-Anderson has written (in a devotion on Psalm 30*) about asking a group of children how they needed God’s help that day. She writes:

They had no trouble answering that question. They needed God’s help getting along with their brothers or sisters, with their homework, and for Grandma when she is sick. I did an experiment with the church council, during prayer time before one of our meetings. … It was quiet for a few moments, before the first brave soul said, that it was hard to think about how she needed God’s help. I found that it was much harder for the adults to ask God for help than it was for the children.

In our culture, we adults may think it’s not grown-up to ask for help. And yet, in the Psalms, David often did! This is the David who faced down Goliath with help from the Lord, and went on to be a mighty military leader of Israel. No one, even in our culture, would under-estimate David, and yet, there he is, boldly asking God’s help.

This focus, with humility and boldness, it seems to me, is what shows in those who are entering the kingdom.

I think this for at least two reasons:

The Luke version of the “Let the Children” story comes right after the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). The tax collector—as you may remember—was justified by simply, humbly, pleading for God’s Mercy. As a writer, I think Luke placed the story there as a way to re-emphasize Jesus’ point about the children.

In the woman-in-the-crowd story, there is a part where Jesus explains that the woman’s faith has made her “whole/well/healed/saved” (depending on your translation). One of the commentaries I read says that the original, Greek word that’s used for “whole/well/healed/saved,” is one that implies a whole salvation, not just a physical healing. Her faith, then, is a model for us.

On a less theological level, a lesson for me is remembering to ask God for help more often, much sooner. Like many longtime Christians, I can tell of numerous times when asking God’s help brought better results than I ever could have gotten alone.

I conclude all this with an image borrowed from a beloved boy, just turning four. His birthday party—since it was February in Minnesota!—was held in an indoor gym. As his young friends arrived, he raced full-tilt across the floor, shouting in joy, to greet them. On my own re-birth-day, may my Lord find some childlike joy and enthusiasm from me!

 

 

*(from God Pause, the daily e-mailed devotions from Luther Seminary, http://www.luthersem.edu/godpause/daily_view.aspx, 4/9/13.)


link to lyrics, sheet music, and audio files

written by Constance Morgenstern
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