As a Child...
Sometimes I babysit Liesl and Paul’s little girl Alexis. She is not yet two. In a odd way, I find that she is my teacher when she comes to my house. That may sound strange but Alexis sees the world. I mean, she really sees it. With absolute fascination, she will look at the clock in my house, point to it on the wall and say the word CLOCK! And it will hit me like a ton of bricks that yes, this is a clock and it is a wonderful thing and fascinating and why did I not notice it? In fact, now that I am an adult, I pass by so much without seeing it. I pass by entire days, sunsets, flowers, rain…not even noticing.
This past week, my son Luke and I took Alexis for a walk on one of her visits. It was getting dark and she kept pointing out the moon and shouting at it, “Moon!!” Then we reached a small puddle at the end of a driveway. And she was intrigued.
Knowing that a washer and drier were not far away, I let her stomp in the puddle. SPLASH! I said, and she giggled loudly. SPLASH! She sang out. And splash and splash and then run faster and faster and come back and splash again. Alexis was fascinated with how the water worked, how it moved around her feet, how there were leaves in it. (yes, we did wash our hands afterwards) She did not want to leave. She was not done exploring that puddle for a very long time. I could not rush her. She moved and jumped in that tiny amount of water. It was a song of praise. It was a dance. It was pure joy.
There was another little boy who would not be rushed. Today we hear about the boy Jesus. He was just twelve years old when he went to Jerusalem with his parents. They visited the temple annually. But this time, Jesus did not leave when everyone else left. The adults all thought that Jesus was lost, but he was not lost, he just never left the temple. He was not done with what he had to do there. Jesus did not wander off. It was everyone else who wandered off without him. He was exactly where he should be.
Jesus was in God’s house, where else? And that to me is no surprise at all. Jesus felt safe and fascinated by the beautiful space just as you and I do. Isn’t that why we are here? Jesus was drawn into God’s presence even as he was God himself.
Remember that God tells us again and again that this is the place to be. If you encounter someone who is lost or lonely or suffering, invite them here! It is so simple but we forget. They can say no. You are not going to offend them. Just invite them. After all, Jesus wanted to be here too.
It took his parents an entire day to realize that he had not left Jerusalem with the group from their village. I can’t imagine how frantic they were when they went back to look for him. I have felt that panic before, the rising sense of danger as your child is lost.
When they find Jesus, they are no doubt frazzled and rushed and angry and afraid. They felt like most of us do on many of our days. Sort of self-pitying and afraid. We often rush at God will all of our urgent problems as if God has abandoned us when we actually left God somewhere along the way. We say, “How could you do this to me? Don’t you know how much I have been worrying? How could you be so thoughtless? How can you leave me?”
It is not where he was that surprises me, it is what he was doing. For years, I glossed over this passage and assumed that Jesus was arguing with the teachers and rabbis and telling them about God. I assumed that Jesus would show them how he knew more about God than they did. I was wrong.
Jesus was not telling them anything. Jesus was listening.
And Jesus was asking questions.
It blows my mind that the Son of God would be listening and asking questions. But somehow, the child Jesus knew something that most of us grown-ups seem to have forgotten…that God is in the questions. God is in the wonder and the amazement and the awareness. If we want to find God, we have to stop talking for a minute and listen.
In this world, it seems that we are bombarded by talking. Everyone knows what they think and everyone has an opinion. But we do not learn from talking at each other. We do not learn when we pigeonhole another person as liberal or conservative and stop listening. No one human being is exactly like another. We no more understand each other than we can understand the moon. When we stop listening, we cut off the very means by which God communicates with us.
Jesus listened and Jesus asked questions.
Recently, I have begun to picture an image in my prayers. It is an image of glass. Each of us is surrounded by a lens of sorts, a piece of glass or a bubble of our perception. When we encounter events in life, they color or warp the glass. When a girl is abused by her father and touched inappropriately, her lens becomes warped. She sees all men as dangerous and even the sweetest man will step in front of her and his actions will look warped to her through her lens. She will not be able to see him clearly or to love clearly.
It is not only traumatic events that warp the glass, it is simple opinions. Telling a child that teenagers are rude or old people are bad drivers or that Republicans are mean or Democrats are stupid. They believe us and it colors their perception. And if they don’t clean the glass, forever will their world be warped.
And finally, the worst kind of warped perception is when we don’t try to look through the glass at all because we are simply too busy looking at ourselves. Or when the glass becomes so dirty, so covered over with opinions and arguments that we can’t see through it at all, all we see is a reflection of our own selves. It is amazing how fascinated we can be with our own moods and actions meanwhile the true awe exists all around us waiting to be seen.
We all see through a glass dimly, wrote St. Paul so many years ago. The point of prayer is not so much to talk as to listen, to ask questions and to clean the glass of your perception.
Remember the children. Remember the child Jesus who listened. Return to who God created you to be, a child of God.
- The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead