A month ago now, one of my twin sons, the one who has a form of Sensory Processing Disorder, was having a rough morning one Sunday. He was more overwhelmed than usual as we rolled up to church. And as worship began, the noise and the people overwhelmed him to a point that hiding under the seats (as per usual) just wouldn’t do. He needed a better, a safer place to hide. So he curled up right under our Communion Table.
I could feel the consternation coming from many of the adult congregants as his Sunday School teachers and I tried to get him out from his hiding spot through the first hymn and opening prayers. Alas, it was to no avail. However, when I tried talking to him, he informed me that he was scared and needed to feel safe.
A few moments later, we arrived at the point in the liturgy for Children’s Time. I called the other children forward and I asked them a question that had occurred to me as this scene had unfolded in the minutes prior.
“Do your teachers sometimes have to take a few extra minutes to help some of your classmates or you out with something at school?” They all smiled and answered yes.
I said, “Today I want to talk about a very special part of God’s love. It’s called equity.”
I explained something I had never said in front of the whole body in this space: my sons have a few extra things going on in their heads that make certain things we all do, and especially worship, pretty overwhelming for them. Today was particularly tough for this one who was in hiding. But then I went on…
“Out of all the places in this room, he chose this table up here as the safest place. Isn’t that interesting. Because what does this table represent?”
They all immediately knew the answers: God. Love. Family.
As we went on, one of them told me that their teacher has a quote up in their classroom that reads, “Equality is not about treating everyone the same, it’s about everyone getting what they need to succeed.”
Jesus taught us that we should learn from children because they understand the Kingdom better than we ever will.
Perhaps it is that they have not become as jaded or cynical or even destroyed by the world as most adults have. Or maybe it is that they can see the truth far more clearly and simply because of it.
Make no mistake, our kids see through our integrity or lack thereof faster than we can blink an eye. Let alone come up with even a half-way reasonable excuse.
What is more, as so many of us have and continue to teach them the importance of love and welcome, being brave and kindness, and standing up to bullies, these younglings can call out the bunk, poppycock, and hooey that is so much of grown-up behavior. They know when we are doing the opposite of what we say. They know when grown-ups are, in fact, the worst tormentors of the bunch.
They also know when our excuses are hogwash.
So, just as those children understood equity and inclusion of everyone, no matter how different they may be, that day in worship (and yes, they gave a lot of those grown-ups a good lesson), they also know when the things we say we’re doing to protect them from what is supposedly wrong in the world do not line up. They know it has nothing to do with a shield or safeguard. They know when what is being called wicked, depraved, nefarious, or malicious is simply just unusual, or unconventional, or possibly exceptional and extraordinary. They know when grown-ups are just protecting themselves, what they’ve always known, and who they’ve always hated.
Jesus always made space for the misfits and welcoming those deemed undesirable by the world. On what planet do we think we are more cable of choosing when he never did?
Our children need adults who are willing to reflect the God who is Love made flesh to them. Who show them what that radical inclusion and willing seeking God’s justice looks like in our churches and homes. Adults who will have the integrity to listen, believe, and follow Jesus when he says that the only way we can show we are his disciples is to love. To show God’s profligate, self-giving, all-embracing, equity-seeking, reckless and prodigal love.
Our kids know the truth. Maybe it’s time we actually start living it well.