As a Child

Proper 21 (26)  |  Mark 10:2-16

The Gospel of Mark puts strange things together. In the story of Jairus trying to get help for his daughter, we read about a sick woman in the street. There are blind men in odd places. Jesus sends his disciples out to preach, only to have their adventures paired with the death of John the Baptist, prophet and preacher in his own right.

In this passage, Mark pairs a conversation about divorce with a story of children who come to Jesus — the disciples are brusque with the kids, and Jesus is in turn brusque with his disciples.

Why put these two ideas together — divorce and children? What links them?

Maybe it has to do with the natural state of human beings. People are made to match — not a match of birth, or of necessity, but of choice. “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife…”

We choose one another. There is a natural progression to it. None of us lives forever, not in this state of being at any rate, and we hope our children will run beyond us, will choose new friends, new family, people to love and to love them when we are gone.

And there it is — a link, from the admonition against being hard-hearted and rejecting one another to the way Jesus embraces the children who choose to come to him.

The children have no thought of forever. No idea that they must commit to anything more than the moment. No notion that they might loose interest, might turn away, might find someone else more attractive. This moment is eternity for them, and in this present infinite moment, their choices are as eternal as they are pure.

Children come to us, come to God, with no notion of pretending to be someone they aren’t. Or, if they do pretend, it is an honest pretense — we know the child is not really a pirate or a dinosaur.

How many relationships would have lasted if only we had come as the people we are instead of the people we thought we needed to be, the people we pretended to be. We don’t necessarily mean to deceive. We simply do not think that anyone would accept us, cherish us, choose us, for being the person we are. Surely they want someone better, we think. More interesting. More rich. More friendly, energetic, charming. Not us—they couldn’t love us. Not the real us.

And yet that is the charm of children. They are as they are, and we love them for it. And God loves them for it. 

Maybe if we can accept that God can love us, the same as loving a child, then we can choose to love ourselves. Given that love, maybe we can start to think that someone else can love us for who we are, not for who we pretend to be.

If we can find our real selves, we can begin to love one another. Just as we are. Oh, let’s improve if we can. Let’s better ourselves. Let’s make something of ourselves. But let’s stop trying to fool other people into liking us.