Saturday, October 1, 2011

"...and a little child will lead them (Isaiah 9:11)"

Jesus calls us to have childlike faith.  As mentioned in a previous blog article, that implies an inquisitiveness inspired by a thirst to grow and learn.  In the Messianic prophesy expressed in Isaiah 11:9, we learn that one indicator of the Messiah’s presence among us is when we go beyond possessing childlike faith and actually are led by a child. 

To be led by a child implies a great deal of humility.  Children usually have fewer life experiences and lower education levels than adults.  From these data points, many adults extrapolate that children therefore must possess less wisdom and insight than them.  Clearly the child needs their “superior” leadership and guidance.  Permitting the child to lead is risky, they believe.  They tend to laugh “at” more than “with” their children due to their sense of supremacy.  Their lack of humility prevents them from being led by children.
Adults harboring such attitudes tend to dictate to children, ignore, dismiss or devalue children’s contributions, and feel children need heavy-handed direction and discipline “for their own good”.  Perhaps they believe God speaks more clearly to them than to their children, thus they place overriding value on their own opinions.  

Though such adults might believe they mould children in the image of God, they actually mould them in their image because they suppress the Spirit’s unique presence in the child rather than cultivate it when it deviates from their wishes.  Quite simply, they sometimes supplant the will of God with their own will and label it God’s.    

However, effective parents delight in what they learn from their children.  They realize that wisdom and insight emerge from many sources including and sometimes especially from the mouth of a child.   They are willing to be led by a child sometimes. 

These types of parents tend to listen to their children as much or more than speak to them.  They reserve lecturing as a teaching device only for certain types of lessons rather than making it their preferred teaching device.  They communicate with their children and thereby gain healthy, genuine intimacy with their children.  They joyfully laugh with their children. 

As I shift from literal parent-child relationships to ecclesial parent-child relationships, I see an unsettling trend where many church “fathers” treat their children like simple-minded, ignorant, disobedient children in need of lecturing and heavy-handed direction.  They don’t know their children because they speak “at” them rather than “with” them.  They treat interactions with them as condescension rather than a privilege.  They are threatened by relinquishing leadership to them.

A few questions I ponder of late are, “How do we let ourselves be led by children”, and, “How do church leaders let themselves be led by their ecclesial children?”

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of this blog.  I began it led by the advice of my children.  Here’s a shout out to my kids:  I realize I don’t listen to you as much as maybe you would like or I should.  But I want you to know that I learn some of life’s most profound lessons when I allow myself to hear the world through your ears, see the world through your eyes, listen to the wisdom of the Spirit coming from your mouths, and experience the world led by your hands.  May you be blessed with children in your lives who can help guide you as much as you help guide me.  You truly are a presence of Christ for me and for the world.   

 “…and a little child will lead them (Isaiah 9:11)”

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