Tag / Children
In Others’ Words, Pt. 2: David Swanson
I asked a friend, David Swanson, to respond to the “current moment,” particularly speaking as a pastor to our children, our church’s children, stating what things we might say. I’m grateful for his careful reiteration of a basic truth.
To Our Church’s Children,
In my sermons to your mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and the other adults in our church, I often tell them that, though there are many, many important things about them, there is one thing that matters the most: each of them is loved deeply by God. You are generally not in the room when I say this, but I know you hear it from the adults who love you and from the teachers who tell you the story of how God is rescuing this world through Jesus. Even so, I want to say it to you too. Of all the interesting, beautiful, and challenging things that make you who you are, the most important of all is that God loves you.
I know this might not sound so important. Most of you have people who love you and they tell you this. But if you could see what I see when I tell the adults that they are loved so completely and profoundly, you might begin to suspect that there is more to this simple statement. And there is, mostly because it is God and God’s love we’re talking about and whenever we talk about God we have to be humble about all we don’t know. We have to, in other words, admit that we will always be discovering new ways that God loves us. And we’ll be discovering for the rest of our lives how this love changes us and everything around us.
But there is another reason it is a life-long struggle to accept all of God’s love for us and this one is harder. We live in a country where it is normal to make people feel less worthy of love. There are many reasons given for this lie: girls can hear that they are less worthy than boys; children with darker skin can hear that they are less worthy than their friends with lighter skin. Does this make sense to you? I hope it doesn’t, but I need to tell you that for too many of the adults in this country it does make sense. I don’t want you to imagine that the adults you love actually think these lies are true, but this country finds so many tricky ways to tell us these lies that they begin to wiggle their way into our thoughts and our hearts.
These lies are the hard reason that we have to hear over and over again that God loves us. Because when we live in a place that lies to us all the time, trying to convince us that some people are more loveable than others, we have to hear loudly and clearly that we are loved. We need to know that the One who made everything, including us, loves us. He loves us exactly as we are, as boys and girls with hair that is just the right texture and color, with eyes and noses that are perfectly shaped, and with skin that can’t be improved upon. Look at yourself in the mirror and know that God loves you.
I hope you will spend the rest of your lives exploring God’s love for you. And as you do, as you experience God’s love as the particular person you are, I pray that you will make sure that everyone around you knows that God loves them too. Because the lies are strong and constant and most people you meet will believe them at least some of the time. But, as you will find out, the lies have nothing on the truth. And the truest thing in the universe is that God loves. God loves you.
Advent Post #13
“In a loud voice she exclaimed…” (Luke 1:42)
Imagine that this was the first reaction Mary had to her news about being pregnant. We do not know if it was. But it is realistic that young Mary could travel on the basis of visiting her kin and not raise eyebrows. She didn’t have to reveal her news to anyone just yet. Plus, with Elizabeth’s own pregnancy, the two shared a kind of bond that was unrepeatable.
Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed the historical words which frame prayers and blessings of many Christians: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” You are blessed and your child is blessed.
What a remarkable thing to say to mothers and their children. You are favored and your child is favored. I wonder if this can be the pronouncement that we give when new parents and children come into our lives. Can we say, against our better judgments and against our cynicism, you are blessed?
It would force us to see beyond the current reality. It would push us by our junk and the junk piles of others until we saw something more. We’d have to see other visions to say these words, but they are words worth saying.
When I look at children, I often want to school them, tell them what they need to hear, what risks they ought to measure, how they ought to ready themselves for the cruelties of life. When I see my son, Black gold that he is, I want to protect him by telling him in advance that being a Black boy will bring hardship. I have to train myself to say what Elizabeth said. I have to try to see blessing as part of the picture. And yet it is so much of what Advent is.
It takes the Spirit to utter these words, and it takes the Spirit to yell them. You are more than your condition. You are more than surroundings. You have come from the grandest memory of God, and what you bring into the world is kissed with beauty and divinity and holiness. You are favored, spoken well of by angels and their Creator. Why would you think less of yourself? Why would you put yourself low or think yourself shunned? You are loved, have been loved, and always will be loved. It is an honor to know you!
I wonder if words like Elizabeth’s can become a portion of our statements to the children on our blocks, in our communities, and around our places of business. I wonder if when we see them, we can train ourselves in the mind of Elizabeth, be filled enough with Spirit, to utter or proclaim, “You are amazing. You will be amazing.” And then, all the other similar words will come and keep coming.
I can hope.
Good Stuff About Marriage
I have reason to visit the book these two discuss in my ministry from time to time, and it’s good. I think David Gushee says worthy things here.
More Proof I Love You
Ask your mother. I never got sick. I don’t believe in sick. It doesn’t look good on me.
It leaves little skin chips across my reddened nose, has me running around with a roll of toilet paper because I refuse to buy tissues when I have all those rolls in the cabinet.
Sickness takes my appetite and my ability to smell and taste food. Which makes me very mad since I bought those fruits and vegetables that require care and digestion by someone who eats them with great appreciation.
Sickness makes the world a lot slower since things match the motion of my fuzzy, clogged head. It makes me beg my pardon in conversations, makes me too tired to sleep, and less helpful which I personally detest. It makes my voice sound funny, and in my work voice is important.
So, mark the record, Bryce. Let it show that every single time that you have been sick thus far—with the exception of that battle with acid reflux when you first moved in—that I have changed my routine. Now, I do get sick and usually half way into your body’s fight. It’s the new clock by which I set my immunity’s collapse. May the phrase, “You make me sick,” be evidence, more proof, that I love you.