In Isaiah we read that The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. This is a beautiful metaphor about the possibility of unity within the world, the world of peace, the one a God of love seeks for all people and also for all of creation which includes animals and landscapes and little ones.
Children are precious to God–and yet we also read about how the Disciples (Jesus’ friends, students, and chosen ones) tried to prevent little children from getting near Jesus. Perhaps they hoped to protect Jesus who they thought was tired, but it is not up to us to protect God.
In a perfect world, all babies would be welcomed. The first glimpse of a newborn infant would fill moms and dads, granddads and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends, with happiness and excitement.
But what about when they bring the baby home? That’s when the work of raising them begins. That is a difficult and important purpose in life. We all want the children in our lives to end up like the beautiful description in Isaiah of a child upon whom: The Spirit of the Lord will rest—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and awe of the Lord—
But wait a minute, how does that happen? I just watched the Last 24 Hours about the last 24 hours of Sid Vicious’ life. Perhaps more importantly we should look at not how one dies, but how one lives, and how one is raised up.
Sid was the child of a single mom. The dad deserted when his son was only two years old. The mother had no skills and no sense of the sacred. She raised her son not as a mother ought but as a friend. He was raised on drugs and no boundaries. It is no wonder he ended up a punk rocker part of the Sex Pistols. He cut himself, made a spectacle of himself, and was part of a group with no self-respect, in full rebellion, proving themselves unrespectable.
Oddly, Jesus loved the most unrespectable, the prostitutes, the embezzlers, the partyers. He saw their potential. It was hard for me to see Sid’s potential. He wasn’t even a particularly talented musician. He ended up accused of the murder of his equally lost girlfriend after a drug/sopped night. He did not remember a thing, but his knife was in the girl’s gut. He was bailed out of jail and met by his mother.
What does she do? Well, she was his friend, right? And not a parent. She gave him heroin. Eventually, she gave him enough to kill him. So he wouldn’t go to jail. She too died of a heroin overdose.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
A child needs guidance in order to grow into a person full of the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding. And we are all children in one way or another in need of grounding in what is holy, sacred, and gives peace.
A Native American Elder (as described by Kent Nerburn,) said “If you see life as a straight line, where the young and old are weak and those in the middle are strong, and if you think that to be important you must be useful, you do not see value in the young and the old. You see them as burdens, not as gifts, because they cannot lift their hands to be of use to the community. But the young and old both have other gifts…The old have the wisdom of experience. They have traveled far on the journey of life and give us knowledge about our own road ahead. They have lived what we are still waiting to learn.”
When Jesus gladly blesses the little children, he demonstrates we need one another, young and old. Parents provide daily care, food, shelter and clothing, as well as love, which sometimes must be tough-minded. Older people are wisdom-givers and sometimes also provide the daily care for youngsters.
Let’s remember though, that as Isaiah says, A little child will lead us: they teach wonder, trust, and innocence, requiring older people to become more selfless, developing perseverance, strength, tolerance, forgiveness, and tough love. As Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Allow yourself to be filled with wonder, and dwell in the awe of the beauty that surrounds you, whether it is within nature, or within your family, or within yourself.
Trust the warmth of your loving God, the process of life, which seeks only the very best for you.