Friday, December 16, 2011

The Beautiful Symphony of Off-Key Children


Last evening I had the joy of attending our church school's Christmas program.  It was your usual mix of children of all ages and talent.  There were some who wanted to be the star and there were others who probably should have been the star.  All were involved and all had an important part to play and, in the end, everyone was blessed.  Its amazing how wonderful such a thing sounds, because whatever we may hear, God hears the most beautiful of symphonies.  I know God is blessed when children praise Him with that childlike wonder and innocence that we lost so long ago. 
But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?"   Matthew 21:15-16 NKJV
It may seem counter-intuitive to think that praise has been perfecting in young children.  When you think of something being perfected, you think of it as an ongoing process.  This is not so when it comes to worship.  When you see a child worshiping the Lord, that is praise perfected.  No worship leader, no singer, no musician, no leader, no matter how talented, can perfect worship the way God has in that little off-key singer pouring his or her little heart out to the Lord. 

The fact that it makes no sense makes perfect sense to me.  I think that is just another way of God telling us to stop trying to understand everything.  We often make the same mistake that Eve did in thinking that knowledge is more important than relationship.  We have this thirst for knowledge and understanding.  While that is not a bad thing in and of itself, that drive goes way past the things God allows us to understand and into things that we can never understand.  We need to not just accept the Trinity, but understand it.  We need to understand God's motivations, instead of just accepting that they are for His glory and our benefit.  We need to understand God, not just accept God for all that He is.  At some point in our walk with God, it is no longer enough to just sit at the feet of Jesus and look up in wonder at all that He is.  We forget His admonishment to be as children and like adolescents we think we know better than what God has told us when all we really are is ignorant.  In fact, we become more than ignorant, we embody ignorance in denial where we are willfully ignorant even of our ignorance.  In the end, we think we know what God tells us we could never understand and lose that innocence and awe that we once had. 

And that is really what we just need to be.  Once we try to understand God, we should realize just how much we do not understand.  That is not what we do, though.  We think we begin to understand some things and people create entire errant theologies out of these ideas.  Unfortunately, we really do not understand anything.  We can not comprehend the mind of God.  You can not even begin to scratch the surface.  The Trinity is an impossible concept to grasp.  The motivations of God are also impossible to grasp as God is managing not just all Creation but all Creation at all time, all the time.  We can not possibly understand in this life why things go the way they are or why God planned things the way that He did.  For all you know, the traffic jam you were stuck in was just to delay someone else from getting someplace to avoid what would have been a terrible accident should the timing have been different.  We really just need to accept that we can not even begin to understand God.  Instead of trying to figure out how something works, we should just be amazed that it does.  Instead of trying to measure how big God is, we should be in wonder that we can not. Instead of trying to understand the mind of God, we should just be in awe that something so immeasurably vast has thoughts personally about us all the time.  Instead of trying to understand the heart of God, we should be blessed that His heart loves and knows us personally among the countless billions of people who have ever lived. 

And that is where children come in.  I look at them performing before the Lord and on one hand I am blessed but on the other hand I am sad.  I am sad that this world is going to do everything it can to rip and tear at that childlike innocence until they become just as cynical as the rest of us.  What makes me even more sad is that those of us who are examples to them have already lost that innocence.  We should be their examples in learning to continue that childlike faith no matter how old we get, but first we need to learn how to be childlike as they are.  It almost seems hopeless.  We need to learn how to be from the ones we need to teach how to be.  That would be impossible if not for God.  God tells us to be as children and if He tells us to do something, He will make it possible.  We need to take that command seriously and learn to just be in awe of our God again.  We need to not deny or solve our ignorance, but relish in it.  Rejoice in the fact that our God is so great, so large, so powerful that it really is incomprehensible.  That is a God you can worship in awe and wonder.

We must cherish our children.  We must cherish them not just as the ones God has entrusted us to raise into men and women of God, but also who God sent to teach us the childlike wonder and faith in God that we once had.  Young children see their parents as able to do anything, just because they are mom and dad.  We should see God the same way.  Young children do not worry about food or clothing but enjoy the provision their parents provide for them.  We must trust God in the same way.  Young children do not question why they should love their parents, they just do, with all their hearts.  We should love God the same way.  Young children have no shame in showing an outpouring of love to their parents.  We have be as shameless in our love of God.  God is our Father, we should love Him as His children. 
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. " Matthew 18:1-4 NKJV

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