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A childlike faith

November 2, 2015

Isolation, busyness, and exhaustion seem to punctuate the days for many. We yearn for time to connect with others, yet there never seems to be enough time or energy. How do we start making connections within the church, the workplace, anywhere? This is a question we have been asking over and over in our Bible study group. Our homework, due tonight, is to bring ideas on how we can bring people together within our church family and how to spread that fellowship out into the community.

In a world that idolizes activity, our task was challenging. I had spent days thinking about my ideas. The answer came rushing in about the same time I watched my littlest dart across the street to hug one of her best buddies. Sitting back and watching that scene unfold, reminded me of Jesus’ admonition to have a childlike faith. I think he also meant a youthful spirit as well.

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me. Matthew 18:2-5

Her jubilant dash reminded me of a time years ago, when my sweetie and that same curly-haired child shared a best friend.  When Sal’s lifelong bestie moved in, M would often wander two doors down to play with our baby girl.  Upon discovering that Sal wasn’t home, M would stay and shadow my husband, assisting in all sorts of tinkering projects.  When her parents would come a short while later, they would be shocked that Sal was nowhere in sight and M was happily hanging out with my man.

Daniel quickly brushed away any nonsense about his little buddy being in the way or slowing him down. He cherished the company of a sweet little girl.  The message was clear: happiness and fulfillment can be found in the unassuming places of the ordinary.

During my ruminating over our homework question, I have thought of all the buzz-word ideas, even thinking of how to use social media to help us find time to fellowship with others. Then, God gently reminded me that lasting bonds are formed in the simplest ways, and he used a childlike spirit to reinforce his message to capture my heart.

The story made simple is this.  The parents and grandparents of some dear friends of ours and our children moved into the house across the street a few years back.  The new neighbors have spent hours updating both the interior and exterior of their home and yard.  Daily, the grandpa, D, can be seen outside doing one task or another.  Many conversations between our family and these sweet neighbors have taken place on the curb, in the street, or by the mailbox.  To the outside world, the scene would be about as interesting as dry toast, but to Sal, a true friendship was blossoming.

Grandpa D is a jokester, and Sal is often caught in his tangled web of shenanigans. After watching her jump rope one day, he asked for her assistance with a most perplexing problem – his driveway slab was upheaved at a corner.  She listened very carefully to his instruction to stand on the corner of the slab and to continue jumping.  It took just a little bit before they both erupted into fits of giggles because her slight frame was never going to push in the driveway no matter how many times she jumped up and down.  The ordinary moments, God blesses those.

One day we received a call that Grandpa D had taken ill and was being transported to a larger hospital than our local one.  Sal was heartbroken, crying for her buddy and lamenting how he just had to get better because he was now the best part of this neighborhood. (Her best friend moved across town a while back.)  She made sure we sent him “love messages” while he was away. We kept in close contact with his family, but didn’t realize Grandpa D came home from the hospital earlier than expected, while awaiting a surgery date.

Here we were enjoying a quiet family supper, when my sweetie remarked, quite shockingly, that D was in his yard doing some fall clean-up.  We were all surprised. One quick glance at Sal told me she could barely contain her excitement.  My heart melted as I allowed her to leave the table.  She tore out of her chair, bypassed putting on her shoes (even though it was in the low 50’s), and ripped across the street straight into the arms of her neighborhood buddy.

The storm in her heart was calmed as a peace settled on the two of them: one grandpa and one tiny neighbor catching up.  I don’t know all the details of their conversation, although I doubt she decided to take him up on his offer to buy a new snow shovel just for her.

The answer to our homework was illuminated watching a ten-year old and her buddy. Instead of looking for grandiose gestures to reach out to others, we learned the little stuff matters.  Maybe we are working too hard to manufacture fellowship, when God simply wants us to be present here and now in all our relationships, including the one with him.  Real connections are made in the ordinary. A childlike spirit reminded me to stop and savor those moments, even while your supper’s getting cold.  And for this, we couldn’t be more blessed.

My two lesson teachers started this race hand-in-hand and finished it the same way. Real connections support each other.

My two lesson teachers started this race hand-in-hand and finished it the same way. Real connections support each other.

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