I love little children, and especially love how funny they can be. Yet, as they grow we guide them toward taking leaps developmentally and help them become more independent.
A few years back, for a brief time, when my son was growing up, I worked at a preschool when I really started missing the little ones.
I’ve written before about one of my favorite little boys, 4-year old Ivan who looked like a man all dressed in starched shorts and shirt, wearing clean white socks and brand new looking sneakers. He always made me chuckle with his bold comments and forthrightness.
Part of my job was to check on the kids when they went to the bathroom. When Ivan was missing in action a bit too long, I went to the bathroom door calling in, “Ivan what’s up, you’ve been gone a long time?” I peaked in and could see Ivan’s shorts and white briefs scrunched down to his ankles.
The bathroom was so quiet, I couldn’t hear a pin drop. Again, I said “ Ivan, are you okay? Quiet. “Ivan, I expect you to answer”. I imagined him sleeping on the toilet. “Ivan?” Another moment of silence, then:
“Can you help me wipe?”
I paused, thinking for a moment of the Montessori way of helping kids do things on their own.
“Ivan, I know you can do it”.
In a moment, I heard the flushing of the toilet, and peaked in to see his little hands pulling up his shorts from his ankles in the stall. I went back into the hallway, listening to the water running from the faucet, the sound of the paper towel machine churning.
We walked together down the hall back to class, Ivan walking two steps ahead like a CEO as if I wasn’t even there.
I think of Jesus saying the kingdom belongs to little children, and that we need to be like little children and rely on Christ. Yet, it’s clear from the gospels we’re also called to grow and mature spiritually, becoming co-creators in God’s plan of bringing heaven to earth. In this way, surrendering to God’s will means we’re called take steps in following Christ. This doesn’t mean Jesus magically arrive in our lives like a genie, making everything easy. We’re actually called to do some serious growing and stepping up to the plate along the way.
Consider some of the ways Jesus called his followers to participate proactively in the surrendered life.
During a gnarly storm, Jesus calls Peter out of the boat to walk toward him against thrashing winds on tumultuous seas. Peter responds, stepping out of the boat, moving, wobbling, against all odds, like an amateur tight rope walker, toward Christ. Just the same when the storms threaten the calm seas of our lives, and they do, we’re called to muster bold courage and radical faith, and step out – out of crisis, procrastination, co-dependency, addictions, financial limitation, and self-pity, and move toward Christ into wholeness.
As a lame man, ill for 38 years, is lying by the pool, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?” When the man answers, “I have no man to put me in the pool..”, Jesus says “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” Immediately the man became well.
After Jesus “spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to the blind man’s eyes” he says, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam “. So the man went away and washed, and came back seeing..”
He tells his followers, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
He tells the adulteress to go and sin no more, to turn her life upside down and inside out.
He tells the disciples to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless, to forgive seven-times seventy-seven times and ..in fact if, anyone had anything against their brother, they would need to leave their gifts at the altar, to first amend their relationship problems.
We’re called to serve others, to continue in his love, ask, seek, knock, believe the gospel, wash one another’s feet, pray always, be not afraid, let our lights shine, lay not our treasures on earth, love our enemies, heal the sick, feed the poor.
He says, “If you love me, you will keep my words.”
Surely, spiritual surrender is sure to keep us busy growing up, growing in the will of God into our truest selves. And we do this while remaining like little children, our eyes focused on Christ with arms stretched wide.