Joy & Dragons

If it seems a childish thing to do,
do it in remembrance that you are a child.

                                                  – Frederick Buechner

The Passage – Matthew 18:2-4

There is a saying in theater – never share the stage with children or animals. On Sunday Ben, who sings in the choir and also has a goldendoodle, shared a video of his dog running with full enthusiasm up the stairs and hallways of his apartment building – and returning with equal enthusiasm to bring Ben along. It was exuberant. You know what I miss most in our Sunday gatherings? The children. A maxim against sharing space with children or animals misses joy.

Remember the day when Jesus was trying to get through to his followers the essential posture for discipleship in his kingdom? It is in Matthew 18:2-4:

He 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.

Humility is essential, of course, to joy – because joy requires open arms, open heart – a curiosity about what is coming and will be given (as opposed to what is accomplished and should be protected). To be a child means believing God is the sort of attentive, good and trustworthy parent that Jesus describes his Father to be. Our capacity for joy is directly related to our capacity for humble trust not only in the goodness of God, but also in God’s delight in our childlike potential for dependence, exuberance and wonder.

The Prayer

“But you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear
but you received the Spirit of adoption.
And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  
—Romans 8:15
As you pray today, be guided by these reflections from my friend Alexander (Sandy) Cram, in his late 60’s when he wrote the following to me. Sandy had been a forester all his life and was the quintessential reserved Scottish gentleman. He signed his letters to me “Yours aye”. His reserve prevented him from discussing faith in casual conversation (still waters run deep). He wrote: “I don't find it ‘too hard to pray’, and don't really see why it should be so. Granted that a quiet place helps, also freedom from interruption, but I talk to God the way I used to talk to my father when I was a child, usually sitting on his knee, or as an adult speaking to an old (and older) trusted friend who cares for me and will stand by me no matter what comes. I have alas only a few friends in this category. I see God as a ‘super – friend’.” Sandy was six foot four. The image of him sitting like a boy on God’s knee delights me.

I invite you to pray today sitting on the knee of God Almighty and saying “Abba – Daddy.”
Maybe repeat this breath prayer throughout your day: Abba, Father, I belong to you.

The Practice: Connect to a child and faith...

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
                                                                    ― G.K. Chesterton
Today, find a way to connect with a child – either a child you know now – or a child you knew – or the child you were. I was on FaceTime with my nephew the other day and he kept repeating, “Can I show you something?” It was 30 minutes of his tricks on the trampoline and the sharp sticks he was carving. And I kept thinking, “I have time for this…” Because his exuberance and desire to connect filled me with joy.

If you don’t have a child in your life to whom you can give your full attention for a time, then can you go to photos and memories of someone you loved as a child and keep company for a spell? Maybe home videos? (We loved watching home movies of ourselves as kids…) Can you sponsor a child through World Vision? Maybe read a book or watch a film you loved in childhood? Something – anything – to call a child back into your heart and soul, and let that child take you right up to Jesus – the dragon slayer.
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