Playfulness, curiosity, innocence, laughter...skipping, jumping, dancing, laying down on the ground and rolling down the hill, doing somersaults...there is a kind of un-self-conscious abandon to life and experience resident in children that is wonderful to behold. While aging does make somersaults a thing of the past, there is much of the childlike embrace of life that is ageless.
Here's a contrast worth considering: children on a playground and adults in a fitness center. Lots of people in close proximity to one another and lots of activity and physical exertion in both places. But the big difference, one that would be utterly mystifying to a young child observing a room full of adults at the local LA Fitness for the first time, is that none of the adults are playing with each other. And nobody is laughing. Such are the playgrounds of us adults..."working" out, as we say.
I do miss the call to play my children sounded on a regular basis. What often felt like a distraction from important tasks now appears as a life-line. I remember going into my study in our home one afternoon. No doubt to take up some important work like preparing a sermon for adults! I must have been in there for 20 minutes or so, when all of a sudden I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, five year old James, as still as he could be, curled up and tucked away under a desk to my left. Just waiting to surprise me. I remember that moment because I think I was more perturbed that my train of brilliant thought had been derailed than that my little boy was calling me to play. A higher calling indeed.
Sister Joan writes, "Intergenerational friendships between an older generation and a younger one are as important to the elder as they are to the child." Indeed. "Children release the child in us before it completely withers up and blows away." Indeed, again.
The life of a congregation is one of the few places these days where all ages mingle together. In coffee hour I will often feel a tug at my sleeve, I turn, and there is one of the Halliday twins, Andrew or Olivia, saying, "Hi" or another even younger little one, just standing there looking up with a look that says, "I just wanted to say hello." I bend down and feel lifted up. The room dances with life.
It is remarkable how many stories we have of Jesus attending to the children in his midst...and how he didn't condescend to them but called us all to be like them if we were to have any chance of gaining entrance to the Kingdom of God. "The disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.'" (Matthew 18:1-5)
There will always be time for somersaults and rolling down hillsides in the Kingdom of God!