There is always more to the Bible than first meets the eye. I’ve known that for a long time, but I seriously thought I had mastered a few concepts by now. For instance, when Jesus says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” I was sure I had nailed child-like faith. Kids trust their parents absolutely; we have to trust God that way. That’s true, of course, but there’s more. Wow!
I spent a few days with my three grandkids last weekend. En route I picked up a box of long, skinny balloons complete with a pump and directions for twisting them into colorful animals and funny hats! I was sure this would be a blast, and I couldn’t wait to impress my favorite tykes with some amazing, inflated dogs and monkeys and elephants.
So the moment finally came and we gathered on the floor where granddad was prepared to create a few dazzling masterpieces of plastic and air. As I opened the box, my strategy was simple and direct: inflate a dozen balloons, let the kids pick which animals they wanted, and begin twisting latex. I took the pump in one hand and used the other to slide the first green balloon onto the tip. That’s when chaos exploded onto the scene.
The five year old wanted to try the pump for himself. The three year old plunged his fingers into the wriggly stack of uninflated balloons and threw them into the air like confetti. The seven year old wanted to choose her own balloons and blow them up. Within ten minutes the room looked like a gummy worm factory on steroids. I couldn’t believe these ungrateful children were running amok with my carefully charted plans for fun! “You’re popping all the balloons!” I was growing more tense and frustrated by the second. What about all the fun we were supposed to be having?
That’s when I realized: they are having fun! They were using the inflated balloons for goofy sword fights. They popped them and screeched with delight! They twisted them into shapes unlike any animal ever beheld on Planet Earth, and giggled at the sight. And yes, the three year old picked up the uninflated balloons I had just returned neatly to the box and hurled them into the atmosphere again, watching them rain down upon our heads. “Granddad, this is so fun!”
So I laughed and joined them in their excitement! The balloon frenzy lasted for nearly an hour, which is almost eternity in a kid’s world! A meaningful balloon shape never emerged from the bedlam, but we did manage a cool hat for my grandson. Like a balloon in a gentle breeze,the idea of childlike faith unexpectedly came floating aloft into my head.
Surely, small children trust their parents completely, but they also approach life differently than adults. My idea of fun was creating inflated works of art worthy of display on Facebook and in family albums for generations to come! Their idea of fun was rolling on the floor, releasing balloons to squirt around the room like rockets, and making as much noise as possible.
It dawned on me that’s one reason why church can seem so frustrating at times. As leaders, we arrive on the scene armed with our brilliant plans for ministry; complex strategies certain to succeed. Meanwhile, all these undisciplined volunteers can’t seem to catch the vision: they delay, get sidetracked by silly jokes, and miss some of the steps. They are so determined to enjoy the moment and the shared community that they seem to us like- well, like children. I once heard a successful GM exec throw up his hands as AWANA leader, confessing to me, “I hate this volunteer army!”
Children are learning even as they enjoy the moment. Sometimes we in the church need to remind ourselves that we’re constructing more than a ministry plan: we are building a community. And with a little more childlike faith and a little less vainglory, we could occasionally laugh with the Father and enjoy the company of His children.
Lift up the cross.