by Eva Englert-Jessen
This week, I’m enjoying being a kid among kids, leading recreation for Vacation Bible School: Hero Central! in the dappled sunlight and shady oak trees to the left of the sanctuary. I love that my to-do list for a couple of hours each day this week includes things like, “get blindfold for Hero Tag; set up baskets for food collecting relay; teach Superman prayer.”
As the kids run and play (and sometimes talk too much or get upset…because, let’s be real), I’m grateful for their energy, for the ways in which their activity equalizes people—even making a less-than-enthusiastic teenage helper giggle or sing a goofy song. I am also grateful for the ways in which kids invite me and all my fellow VBS leaders to be fully present—to just be, as we are, with what we are or even are not capable of.
Jesus talked about putting children at the center of what it means to be a disciple, even to go so far as to say that a disciple could not enter the kingdom of heaven unless (s)he became humble like a little child. It’s easy to read and interpret this statement as, “be like a child or you won’t get into heaven,” but I think what Jesus meant was this: to participate fully in this “kingdom of heaven,” which describes a community more so than it describes a place that one is or is not destined to enter, humility and vulnerability are key. In first-century Rome, a child was viewed as the lowest on the totem pole; of the least status. For Jesus to utter that a being of such lowly state was the highest on God’s priority was a radical thing.
How would our own lives, our church, our neighborhood, our nation and world be transformed if this same ethic and spirit of welcome were made plain everywhere? What if the honesty, the messiness and delight of children, full of questions and wonder and in-between-places, was the norm in the places in which we dwell—even above economic status, resume quality, financial stability, and many other factors we place in the “adult” category? I don’t think God asks us to give up or turn away from maturity or growth, or to ignore the things that inevitably come with navigating adulthood in contemporary society. What this VBS week reminds me, though, is that when we give it room to, the Spirit moves with fervor in the midst of play, honesty, and questions. When we give room for others to authentically express their uniqueness, what makes them joyful, what makes them angry or sad, and what their dreams are, we are all transformed; we all become part of this community of love that Jesus called the kingdom of God.
I pray that this same spirit might move through you this week, summer, and beyond.