Children are very impressionable, very sensitive and very intuitive. One of the ways in which our cultures and society have failed them is in 'socializing' them to the point of no longer sensing their own worlds in ways that are true to themSelves...even if that truth seems real or is at the hands of imagination, or is simply the way they perceive their own presence in this world.
I had an experience when I was young, in England, in Infant school (the equivalent of Kindergarten in North America) with Jesus. Seems a bit silly to an adult to have had an experience of this sort with Jesus...but it was an experience that was real to me. Real enough to stay with me, and real enough to form my understanding of adults:
In Infant school we used to have carpet storytelling time. Mrs. Kidby would sit with us and read from something…IF we were well behaved, it was the ULTIMATE acknowledgement and reward to be able to leave the carpet and go to the library and GET YOUR OWN book. On this day, she had chosen a children’s story version of Jesus riding through the streets on Palm Sunday. There I was listening attentively, when WHOOSH, I was whisked away and no longer on the carpet.
It was hot, not boiling, just hot and there I was, all of a sudden, perched in a tree. People were everywhere on a sandy road, and there was this man, on a…I thought at the time a horse, but realized it was much rougher looking and didn’t look quite like a horse (I later learned about donkeys and mules)….anyway, this crowd of people were making so much noise and putting the long leaves of the palm trees down on the sandy road before him as he rode. He didn’t look anything like the picture in the story book or the ones I’d seen in Sunday School…he was a man, a real man, with rough but gentle hands that were waving…but not waving like the Queen or a movie star waves, it was the waving of ‘please no…not this…” but people were waving back with these toothless and adoring smiles. He was speaking to them and they weren’t hearing him. He said (and not in English, but I understood…) “Please everyone, do NOT make idolatry of me. Not this. Please, this is not what God wants. This is not how we serve Him. Please no….” and I got the sense this was a man on his way somewhere.
There was SUCH love emanating from him. And forgiveness and understanding for what these people were mistakenly doing.
I watched him with the same adoration that everyone else did.
As he passed by my tree, he looked up, directly at me and smiled to me and said TO me: “Remember I am a man, who loves. ”
And he passed by, caught up in the crowd.
Boom, I was back on the carpet. Mrs. Kidby saying to me, “Raven (not my real name), Raven…I asked you a question.”
“Um, yes Miss.”
“Raven, Jesus was WHO?”
“He, he was a man. A man who loved.” I replied.
“No Raven,” she said, “He was the Son of God.”
“No Miss,” I said, “He told me that he is a man. He is a man that loves.”
“Raven,” she scolded, “Jesus does not TALK to any of us.”
“But Miss,” I offered, “Then why do we read about him? And we shouldn’t put leaves down on the road for him when he’s walking. He walks like you and me, and doesn’t like it because it’s not how we serve God.”
“You can go to library.” she said flatly. I didn’t move. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to talk with her more about this.
“I said you can go to the library.” she said again.
“Miss, I don’t want to. I want to hear your story.”
“I don’t want to hear yours,” she said, “Now go to the library. NOW.”
That was the most defiant I ever was with a teacher, well, except for the day Mrs. Kidby wouldn't let me go to the bathroom and I stood on my chair in the afternoon (having not pee'd all day and bursting) and pee'd all over the chair, through my knickers, splattering on the table and soaking myself, the chair and the floor.
And, it was the loneliest visit I’ve ever had at a library but I was grateful for how cold it was, because I was still hot. I couldn’t think. I wondered around the oh-so-desired aisles of books and had an emptiness in my stomach and a fullness in my heart.
The way people talked about Jesus...it was like he was a movie star or something...but he had TOLD me...he was a man...a man, who loved.
Surely, it was THIS love with which we are to serve God? Isn't that what he meant? I wondered how grown-ups could be so thick?
I eventually picked up a Mr. Men book - the librarian took pity on me wandering the aisles aimlessly and gave it to me...Mr. Bump, the man who was always bumping into things without any sense of purpose. It didn't make any sense to have no purpose.
I went home and asked my mum what “Idolatry” meant. She said I was too young to understand. I thought, “Why was I given such stupid parents? She doesn’t know.” ....Perhaps she thought I had said, " adultery?"
And at the tender age of 5, I decided that people, maybe just Grown Ups, didn’t understand what it meant to be the Son of God. Or how ot serve God. Or how to listen...they obviously didn't have any idea what Jesus really looked like or what he meant.