When it comes to raising our kids, someone told me once that the days are long but the years are short.
Which is great advice. Very wise.
But they told me this when my boys were 1 and 3.
I love my boys. I adore them. But saying the days were long when they were little is like saying the parent of a newborn is a little bit tired. It’s a bit of an understatement. Because preschool age kids are really busy. They are so full of life and energy and questions.
I can remember that day when they were 1 and 3, and hearing this advice I decided I would make every minute count. So when the kids woke up that morning, we read stories on the couch under a blanket. We jumped from one tile to the next across the living room. We built a pillow fort. We wrote alphabet letters in shaving cream. We had snacks shaped like animals. We made pretend food with play-do. We took a walk and noticed trees and bugs. We did all of these things, and I flopped down on the floor, exhausted. Then I looked at the clock.
It was 8:15 in the morning.
The days with little kids can be . . . . really full. And maybe a little long. But the person who gave me that advice, was, admittedly, right. Because now my kids are 12 and 14 and it went so fast. Now their days are more full than ever with activities and school work and friends. It seems like we were just doing play-do and now my 14 year old is almost 6 feet tall and can carry me around the house. But whether their kids are 2 or 12, the one thing I hear from every parent I know is how full their days are, as they are raising kids.
Because most parents do everything they can for their kids.
They take them to sports practices and playgroups and music lessons and tutoring. They make them dinner (while remembering which kid likes cheese on their pasta and which one needs the pasta cut exactly eight times). They clean up their toys and clothes. They do all the adult things too- the jobs, the bills, mow the lawn. Then at the end of the day they feel guilty for the things they couldn’t quite fit in. Not to mention at least once a month as they keep all of those plates spinning someone walks into the room, throws up, and everything comes grinding to a halt.
Our days as parents are long. But we wouldn’t trade any of it, because we love our kids, more than anything. Which is, incidentally, exactly how Jesus feels about our kids too.
Today’s Scripture reading from Mark 10: 13-16 and it says:
“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”
Let the little children come to me and do not stop them. We hear this teaching from Jesus as modern Christians and we make it sentimental. We paint pictures of Jesus smiling down on rosy cheeked children, and think, awwww. That’s adorable. But it’s wasn’t just adorable.
It was unheard of.
Jesus was a man born over 2000 years ago. We believe that he was the Son of God, who lived, healed and taught and talked to people. Then predicted his own death and that he would rise from the dead. Then he did it. He is, by all standards, a super star. Even at this point in his life, before the miracle of his resurrection, people have realized there is something he is doing that is different. They have heard stories of him healing the sick, and walking on water. Of special interest to parents, a miracle where he turned one kids lunch into enough to feed a crowd, and that other miracle where he turned water into wine. So the parents do what we would do if we heard someone who could do all of this was coming to town.
They brought their kids to see him.
But the disciples, the guys hanging out with Jesus, shoo the kids away. He was way too important to deal with a bunch of kids. He had a world to save. But what does Jesus do? He says “let the children come to me.” Which is amazing considering who he was. But even more amazing when we think about the time in which Jesus lived. Because 2000 years ago, children weren’t special. Children in Jesus day were property at best. No one thought about what they wanted or needed or thought. But Jesus says to the disciples, let the the children come to me. He isn’t just saying that to the disciples But he is saying that to us.
Jesus loves our kids as much as we do, and wants us to bring them to him.
Now, if you are a parent, stay with me here. This is when you may be tempted to sigh and hear another way we may have missed the mark. Another thing we need to do to be good parents. Maybe you have already started running the schedule in your minds and thinking, Ok, maybe I can fit that Jesus thing in between art class and dinner time, if I put off working out for another day and pay the bills between midnight and two AM. We can read this passage that way, as another thing that we need to squeeze in to raise our kids into responsible adults. But what if Jesus command wasn’t meant to me a burden for exhausted parents? What if it wasn’t a tool the church could use to guilt parents into bringing their kids to a program? What if instead it was an invitation to be a part of a community that can share the load with you when the days feel long?
I think that’s exactly what it is.
The church can be a place where other adults support you. Where there are other people who can love your kids, encourage your kids, teach your kids. Where they aren’t a test score or just someone to fill up the Sunday School class, but where they are known by name. The church can be a place where kids form friendships with other kids that can become lifelong support for one another. The church can be a place where you will find you don’t have to do this parenting thing alone. In the middle of crazy schedules and sleepless nights, it can also provide time for you as a family.
Starting in January, here at our church, we’ll be offering more experiences for you and your kids to do things together, on Sunday morning. We’ll be talking about the same topics with our kids and adults. We’ll have things you can do in the car as you run from one place to the next. We’ll have activities to make memories together. So then building faith into your kids lives doesn’t need to be another thing you have to figure out and buy supplies and plan and implement. All you have to do is get dressed and put your kids in the car and come here, for an hour. Or even bring them in their pajamas. We don’t mind. We just want the opportunity to help you have family time together, to learn about Jesus together.
As a busy parent, I wouldn’t ask you to do it it I didn’t believe it was the most important thing for our kids is to be a part of the church. Because it’s a scary time for our kids, and for us, as their parents.
The expectations on them are high.
Their schedules are full.
Their schools don’t even always feel safe.
Add into that studies we hear that say things like a child’s sense of morality, of what is right and wrong, is firmly in place by age 9, and the reality that advertisers are spending 17 billion dollars a year marketing directly to our kids to tell them what they should believe about what is right and what is wrong and who they are. Then for those of us in the trenches raising teenagers too the anxieties of cell phones and friend choices and college preparation and the moment they drive away in a car. It’s no wonder when our kids finally go to bed we still don’t sleep. It’s scary. It’s hard. So, full disclosure, I do believe it’s more important than ever before to bring our kids to church. Not just as a pastor, but as a parent. Because Jesus’ teachings for our kids that they are loved just as they are, that they are never alone, that they have every reason to have hope for their future, that they are more than just a test score, that they can change the world for good. These truths are more important than ever before for our kids to hear. And they can hear those things, here, in the church.
Now, for those of you who don’t have kids, or whose kids are grown and out of the house, this last part is for you. Because this teaching from Jesus is an invitation for you, too. Jesus said, let the little children come to me. There might be nothing more important, nothing quite as awesome, as being an adult in the life of a kid who is learning who they are. To have the opportunity to be that one person in their life who was there when they needed you. To be part of a church that really opens its doors for kids and teenagers and parents, knowing that the impact you can have in doing that, can truly, honestly, change the world.
Just by showing up on Sunday, you have the opportunity to be that kind of church. It might be the most important hour you spend all week.
About the Author
Megan Collins is the co-pastor of Maitland Presbyterian Church near Orlando, FL. Find her on Twitter @pastormegan