This may surprise some of you, but it turns out that Ritz crackers do not, after all, belong on the theological literature shelf.
Some lessons are tough.
It was actually not my kiddo who did this particular bit of mischief, but I was glad to see that someone else was taking artistic license with picking up, and not just my kids. And let’s be honest–it was the most brilliant piece of artistic license I’d seen in a while.
I’ve kept this photo for a long time because it just makes me smile every time I roll past it in my photo folder, but today it made me think of something else.
In our years as an Orthodox family, we’ve been in different cities and attended different parishes. And it seems, in each one, I’ve apologized (or wept) to the priest for the chaos we inevitably bring with us to Liturgy every Sunday. And every priest, every time, has told me some form of the following.
“I love it. I hear them behind me, and I think of the life it brings to the Church. Bring them. Don’t ever not bring them. Bring them to Christ, bring them to church, always.”
I won’t get into the looks you’ll inevitably get as a parent from the occasional fellow church-goer. I won’t go on for pages about the Christians you’ll find, it seems, in nearly any church, who don’t know you but make it their business to scold your child for acting like a child, or you for the half-a-snapshot of your parenting they witnessed.
Here’s the point.
“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” Matthew 19:13-14 NIV
He didn’t say, “do not hinder them…unless they cry.” He didn’t say, “do not hinder them…if they are cranky wanting a snack.” He didn’t say, “do not hinder them…unless they have a condition that causes them to make a lot of visual and auditory noise.” And he definitely didn’t say, “do not hinder them unless they disrupt you.”
He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” Oh, and also, the kingdom of heaven belongs to them and their pure little hearts.
I’ve considered this a lot, because I look around at my own church community (who, by the way, is the most loving and supportive community I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of), and I see nearly as many children as adults. And I think, someday they won’t be children anymore.
Someday, they won’t be hitting their sisters or banging toys on the wall. Someday, they’ll be serving at the altar or bringing their boyfriends and girlfriends to church or sitting on the floor wrangling their own little ones.
With William, we don’t know.
He might always be a “little one.” He might be sixteen and still rushing at Father Joel and yelling that he doesn’t want to wait in line to kiss the cross. Or maybe he’ll be serving at the altar. Who knows.
But when I see these crackers where words of wisdom should be, I think…let them come to me and do not hinder them.
No matter what; no matter how long they’re children–they belong here.