Recently, Karrie and I adopted two young boys. We have been in the adoption process for some time yet the news still came as a surprise (which we received while on vacation in Tibet). We got home and two days later were meeting the amazing birth family. Our life has been a bit topsy-turvy since then – yet in a wonderful way. I have not really had the chance to write or even time to reflect it seems as this rather dramatic change in our life has unfolded. Yet, over and over again, I have found myself touched by one particular thing – the fresh joy with which children view the world.
There is a tiredness to life that sets in over time. Perhaps it is jaded-ness or perhaps it is ennui – whatever one calls it the result is the same. Life looks less like living and more like enduring. Having these two boys come into our lives has reawakened some sense in me of God’s redeeming work – has opened the eyes of faith.
Those of us who work for the Church professionally often find ourselves caught up in its turmoil and strife. We become fix-it men and women – rather like those political hacks who get hired every four years to handle some problem or another. We are expected to fix things and to get things done so that the Church or our church might persevere for a time longer.
This is all well and good, I suppose. There are real problems that need tending and significant issues to be fixed. Yet, I find myself wondering, if Jesus called children unto Himself so that new eyes and fresh life might come into the midst of those too weary to behold the life and light of the world.
I am perpetually amused (and even sometimes a little annoyed) by the barrage of questions the boys have. Why are we going this way? When will we be there? Did you see that semi-truck? It’s blue. Why is it blue? Where is it going? Isn’t it neat?
On and on the questions and amazement go.
When did we stop asking questions? I suppose we wanted the questions to stop because they annoyed us so we began making proclamations instead. I think God would rather that we ask amazed questions rather than make exhausted declarations. I think He would have us wondering aloud at the beauty of it all. I think Jesus welcomes children because we adults get too tired.
If the Church is not the home of wondering questions – of even annoyingly persistent ones – then I am not sure what it is really for. Those new to us will have questions. Those who suffer will have questions. Those who lose and who are lost will have them. We will all have questions and we will all long for a place of new hope and new life.
Children see the potential of the world and of life. They understand that what is spread before them is limitless horizon – they are ever on the cusp of revelation’s promise. We adults, trained in scientific methods, enlightenment notions, and rational discourse are supposed to find firmness of purpose and possibility in what we see and know.
Yet, children know the world is suffused with possibility and its seams are pulling apart because latent grace is yearning to break free. They see within tree and grass and tide and even within terror that more is there – more is just waiting to be held and beheld for the first time. They step forward boldly because they are aware that something is calling and that love will hold them fast as they reach out for more.
At baptism we pray for children baptized as follows:
“Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”
It is only in a world of wonder (a world where true joy may be found) that Jewish carpenters (and us along with Him) are raised from the dead.
Crucial to the life of the newly baptized is the hope that they will receive the gift of joy and wonder. My prayer for the Church is that we can recapture wonder – that we can live with such joy in our salvation that those we love and those we meet might find us asking questions, delighting in discovery, and ever on the cusp – at the horizon – of God’s unfurling and unending love. May we be convinced that Love is holding us fast even as we are drawn to reach for more.