“Did Jesus die?” he asked, turning back to look at the crucifix.
“Yes, he did. But that’s not the end of it. He rose from the grave and that gives hope to everyone who believes in Jesus.”
“Because it showed us that death is not the end. It only begins a new life.” My little fellow looked intently again at the crucifix. I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ comment in his book The PROBLEM OF PAIN:
From our own childhood we remember that before our elders thought us capable of ‘understanding’ anything, we already had spiritual experiences as pure and momentous as any we have undergone since, … . From Christianity itself we learn that there is a level ? in the long run the only level of importance ? on which the learned and the adult have no advantage over the simple and the child.
Was my little grandson having such an experience? I don’t know, but I dared not speak or stir in case he was. Only he and God knew. My little guy turned around to face me with a happy little smile (as though he had somehow been blessed) and climbed on my lap. We slowly left the bedroom and went down the hallway in my electric wheelchair to the kitchen for “wunch”. (He pronounces the letter “L” as “W”.)
What am I saying? There are sacred moments that surprise us all; they come without warning or prompting; they simply visit then vanish, leaving us with peaceful joy or bliss that is beyond our ability to express or describe. These experiences are more frequent in early childhood then become rarer as we age and cynicism or doubts jades us and separate us from what is divine. Do you know what I am talking about?
My experience with degenerative disability unexpectedly opened a door again to such experiences. It only began to happen after I stopped fighting disease and surrendered to Christ. It was a long journey from the initial bitterness of becoming chronically ill and disabled to a watershed point of finally being able to truly pray our Lord’s words, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22.42, cf, Matthew 26.39, and Mark 14.36).
After all the clever Christian apologetics are stated and doctrinal positions clearly delineated, we must still bow in humble repentance, surrender and submit our lives to God through the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. It is something even children are capable of doing.
Long ago I ceased to discount the prayers of children. Before I converted to Catholicism I attended an evangelical church. One day I was approached by a leader of the youth ministry. He shared with me that the Friday night teen group was having a “problem” with a member who had mild Down’s syndrome. She insisted on coming to the youth group and in devotional time would pray long, long prayers that bothered the rest of the teens.
They were uncomfortable with her attendance and her praying. He asked me what could be done? I don’t think he liked my answer. “Has it occurred to you that her prayers may be more intense and her communion with God more Paradisal than any prayers the rest of us pray?” I reminded the youth leader that the Disciples tried to turn away children but Jesus welcomed and blessed them. I reminded him that Jesus said that whatever we do to “the least of these” we do to Him. He sheepishly looked at his shoes then responded, “I hadn’t thought about it like that. Perhaps the problem is with us not her.”
We must hold up the simple and the child as indispensable members of church life.
Saint Paul spoke about this in 1 Corinthians 12.18-27 when he spoke of the Church being many members of one body: “Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety.”
Why are the weaker members more necessary and the parts less honorable deserving greater honor? I think it’s partly because the weak call the strong to a higher standard of love and care. The less honorable members need understanding and acceptance from the more honorable.
God works through human weakness and brings strength to his people.