“Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” say 100 eager little faces, arms stretched high in the air, hands waving to get my attention – pick me! pick me!
It’s a scene I’m faced with weekly, thanks to my job, and one I especially love – in a school assembly, an R.E lesson or a Children’s event. It’s a sea of faces so keen to give the answer and get it right; to tell their story; or to volunteer before they have any idea of what the task actually involves. Such enthusiasm, love for life, hope to be delighted in, and encouraged! Okay it’s not true for ALL the children in the crowd or the group, but for about 80% it is. And it’s brilliant! Sometimes the answers are wrong, the questions weird and obtuse, the challenge to hard to be met – but those things are the last things they think of as they plead with their hands in the air. Each time I see it at play, it makes me smile but it also makes me wonder…
“Do not pick me! Do not ask me! Do not look my way!” say 100 faces of uncomfortable adults, averting their eyes, crossing their fingers and sitting on their hands – in case any sudden movement might be taken as willingness to be involved! It’s a scene I know well and have experienced many times, and often the person saying ‘do not pick me’ is actually yours truly! It happens at a course, in training day, church event, meeting and at many other group based activities. It always amuses me! I know that in a similar situation, with 100 little faces, the reaction would be very different – ‘I want to’, ‘Call me up’, I know the answer’ etc….
Where does it all change? Why is it that 80% of children and so keen to be involved, to raise their hands and take the challenge and often 80% of us adults are not? Where did we lose that enthusiasm? The sense of risk and adventure? Why is there, so often, the awkward moments when no one volunteers, compared with the overwhelming seconds when it seems like everyone does?
What are we so afraid of? – Being noticed? Being the ‘centre of attention’? Getting it wrong? Looking weak or silly? And when did that insecurity and reluctance appear? When did we stop wanting to take the step of faith? What burned us?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I find it intriguing! Maybe your experience is different to mine, perhaps you haven’t been in many situations when us adults sit on our hands and will someone else to ‘just volunteer and get it over with’. But my guess it that most of you know what I am talking about. Isn’t it funny? Maybe because I see the two extremes so regularly it amuses me more!
I love working with children – their zest for life, willingness to engage, ability to take risks, fearlessness and hope always inspires me. Yes, I know that not all children have lives and experiences like this, but the majority do and its exactly how childhood should be.
When I am watching and enjoying it, it often reminds me of this situation in Matthew 18:
At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?”
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me
Or his statement in Matthew 19:14 –
One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these”.
I know as an adult, there are times, when I take myself way too seriously, I resent the idea of ‘becoming like a little child’ – I want to know all the answers before stepping out; have assurances of the future before I will believe; know exactly what the task will involve before I agree or even consider lending my support; and I want to be
sure to manage my reputation and image instead of risking all for my faith.
I know these aren’t always bad qualities or characteristics – being an adult means making wise and informed decisions and choices. But…sometimes being an adult just gets in the way of the Kingdom of Heaven at work.