The morning bursts into my bedroom too soon, and I feel my muscles groan and burrow under the comforter. I’m getting up early to help in the Atrium, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd space at my church. I hide, just for a few extra moments, store the vivid dream away for pondering, and sit up. I pull on corduroys and wriggle my toes in their silver Toms. I close my eyes and wing a prayer out for the children I’m going to meet, and the hearts they have and their arms rushing towards God.
They won’t sit still, I whisper to myself as we wrangle six boys between 3 and 6 onto a small red fleece blanket. They escape our soft voices and our laughter, and our repeated requests to, “Come watch Miss Hilary show you how to do this.” They laugh and squeal.
But then one boy, bright blond and curious, stomps across the blanket and puts his warm small self next to me, and declares, “I want to do that.” And I lean in and tell him, and the two girls in their bright pinks and purples, that if they watch close, they can learn how to do this, too. And their eyes grow round and they hold their breath as I carefully scoop a small pile of white beans from one jar to another.
We walk slowly into the room, measuring our steps. We trade our shoes for fuzzy socks, speak in sweeter whispers, and even the squealing boys find themselves tracing candles and crosses, sweeping and pouring, setting a prayer table and folding their hands together to talk to God.
I shiver, look down at my bare feet and chipping teal nail polish, and I wonder – when was the last time I ran to God like those hurricane boys and threw myself onto the floor and scrunched my eyes shut and burst with things to tell him – bee stings and scraped elbows and pulled hair?
Friends – can I ask us a hard question? Are we too proud to get that close to Him?
Are we pleased that we can be so composed in church, so calm and elegant, so lovely and presentable? Are we glad for our semblances of patience and performance, of how we do each step right? Whether we be Anglicans or Presbyterians or Evangelical Free, whether ours is a house church or a great cathedral, whether it’s French or Portuguese or English, have we become so concerned to approach in just this way, with just these words, these gestures, this pretty prayer, that we can’t look foolish throwing leaves in the air and holding up our scraped selves for healing?
“This is a special place where we get to meet with God.” Ms. Allie tells the wide-eyed, upturned faces. One girl picks at her fuzzy socks, a boy rocks back and forth, close to meltdown. They pray for their small wounds, sitting cross legged on wooden mats, a candle lit and an icon of the Good Shepherd watching over us.
Jesus said, “let the little children come to me.” I didn’t realize He meant to teach us through their unbounded, delighted half-skip, half-run, always tumbling race into His arms. I didn’t realize that sometimes their crashing, hurricane love for God is the fastest way to Him.