Like A Child
By Kendra Roberts Lynn
WARNING: This article may step on your toes, force you out of your comfort zone, OR, if you allow it, may cause you to say, “What Would Jesus Do?”
There is nothing more beautiful than the sound of saints praising the Lord. Perhaps you are nodding your head, agreeing with me on this. However, I’m not talking about the saints who sing in the choir or play an instrument. Of course, those are beautiful sounds in themselves, but I’m talking about the sound of an average (or perhaps, “below-average”) person sitting in a pew. This person may not have a specific “job” in your church. This person is the one that you and I may consider to be “insignificant” or “undesirable”. This is the person that all of us, at one time or another, have wished would find another church to attend. Oh yes, we might as well admit it. I am guilty of it, just as you probably are. This person sings loudly, and off-key. This person is smelly and dirty. This person is mentally “retarded” or “loony”. This person is not in the “in-crowd”.
Come on, own up to it! Every church I’ve ever been to has at least one “undesirable”. There is at least one person that people whisper about. I can’t count the number of church potlucks I’ve been to where someone hisses in my ear, “Don’t eat the potatoes in the green bowl! Sis. So-in-so made those, and we all know how dirty she is!” How many times have we been in a group, talking, when someone says, “Did you hear what What’s-his-name did the other day? I can’t believe we let him come to this church!”
“What?” you may ask. “How can this person make the most beautiful sound?” I used to wonder that as well. But then, one day, it became so clear.
I was sitting in a prayer meeting, not very long ago. I was minding my own business, trying to pray while my two- and three-year old children clambered around me. Suddenly, I heard something. I stopped praying and started listening.
It was Sis. So-in-so. She was singing. That in itself is not unusual. She sings more loudly than anyone else in the church. She can’t carry a tune in a bucket, either! It used to annoy me, but now, something has changed. I sat there, and I listened to her sing, “Jesus, Loves Me”. She was singing it to her daughter. Her daughter is mentally “challenged”. Sis. So-in-so held that girl close to her heart, and sang to her. She sang the whole song, and at the end, she kissed her girl’s head and said, “Jesus loves you, honey. Oh yes! He does!”
As she spoke those words, tears filled my eyes, and I repented for my lousy attitude and point of view. Then I stopped and listened some more. And this is what I heard; “God, bless my pastor and his wife. Bless my church. Thank You for bringing me here!” I looked up, and saw yet another, non-normal person in my church. She didn’t care who saw her. She didn’t care who heard. She poured out her heart to God, and while doing so, blessed her pastor.
What was I praying for? Financial blessing, health for my children, growth in the church, etc. All very good prayers; some very self-serving. I stood humbled and ashamed after listening to these others pray.
Afterwards, I went right to Sis. So-in-so and told her what an inspiration she was to me. I hugged her, body odor and all, and I thanked God for her. When I went home, these thoughts kept plaguing me: “Who am I to judge these as lesser than I? They are perhaps closer to God than I. They come to Him as little children. Trusting, thankful for His love.”
This world labels everyone and everything so clearly. There are those who are “popular” or “unpopular”. Those who are “educated” or “uneducated”. There are those who call themselves “Christian”, “atheist”, “Buddhist”, etc. The list goes on and on.
The church labels people as well. Here are a few that I’ve heard: “worldly”, “Godly”, “in the ministry”, “saints”, “sinners”, etc. Not to mention the more detrimental terms we give people, such as, “weird”, “crazy”, “retarded”, “smelly”, or the like. What I want to know is how we as “the people of the Name”, the ones with the “Truth”, can justify the way we treat others? These people that we ridicule, avoid and mistreat are creations of God. Just. Like. Us.
The Bible tells us in Matthew chapter 18, verse 4: “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Unbelievable! What was Jesus saying here? Was He saying that we should be “simple-minded” or “child-like” rather than the reasonable adults that we are? Yes! That is exactly what He was saying! He was telling us that we should come to Him just like a child would; with simple, heartfelt praise and humbleness. These people that I’m talking about, these “below-average” folks; they have what it takes to reach the Throne! Their praise is so pure, so lovely, that God blesses them. He blesses them with peace and love. We should learn from them. We wonder why we are depressed or angry or weary. Its because we don’t come to God expecting Him to help. We come wondering if He will come through for us this time. Our adult viewpoint is so jaded and suspicious, that we cannot accept the simple fact that God answers prayers. By the time we have reached adulthood, we have tossed aside the simple faith of our childhood and have a hard time believing that God will do what He said He would do!
This subject has really changed me and made an impression on me. I have never been a particularly cynical person. I’ve never been cruel or rude to people that aren’t like me. Yes, I have thought things about others that were not right, but I haven’t shunned them. Not really. However, I am still guilty of thinking that I am better than others. I am still guilty of not being a servant to those in need. What have I really done to help those less fortunate than I? Have I reached out, Christ did, to the “undesirables”?
Matthew chapter 25, verse 35-36, says this, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
This Scripture always leaps out at me from the pages of my Bible. This Scripture points its finger at me, and says, “What have you done to help someone?”
Our movement as a whole does not have an organized effort to help the homeless or the poor. Individual churches may have programs to reach out, but the UPCI does not. I’m not advocating that we must do that, but I believe on a personal level, we should be reaching out to those in need. I have started bagging up all those extra clothes in my closet and calling Purple Heart to come pick them up. The Salvation Army accepts old furniture and clothing. There are many places that open up soup kitchens and always need volunteers to serve the homeless free meals. There are several organizations that accept old eyeglasses to be given to the homeless or those less fortunate.
There are many ways to help, many ways to reach out. Our problem is that we are afraid of those who are different than us! We are uncomfortable with those saints that worship God so freely and uninhibited. We are nervous around the bum, digging through the trashcan at Wendy’s.
Instead of being afraid, we need to reach out. Go pray with Sis. So-in-so and lift your praises up with hers. Greet What’s-his-name with a handshake and a “Praise the Lord”. Its not going to hurt you to take the bum by the arm and march him up to the counter at Wendy’s to order him a hot coffee and a sandwich.
Hebrews chapter 13, verses 1-2 tells us this: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
As a child, I remember my parents reaching out to those in need. Street people were drawn to my mother. They sensed her kind spirit, and would approach her at restaurants, malls or on the street. She always smiled, nodded her head politely and then moved gently on. Although they made her uncomfortable, she was never unkind. Once, we bought a man a hot lunch after watching him try to find some food in a trashcan. As a teenager, those same kinds of people were drawn to me, and I overcame my fear of them early on in life.
One frigid night my family was driving home from church. We had an old car that took forever to heat up, and my sister and I would cuddle together in the backseat under a quilt, and I remember complaining about that cold car. That night it was below zero and we were really cold. As we sped around a dark corner of the road, my dad slowed down, and we quickly saw the reason why. A man, obviously drunk, was weaving down the middle of the road. He had a huge dog with him, and he staggered about, trying to get his bearings. My mom, sister and I all agreed that we felt sorry for him. Then my dad surprised us by getting out of the car and offering the man a ride home! I remember being so afraid when this poor man climbed in the car. His dog hung over the back of the seat, looking at us, and the car smelled so badly from the booze on the man’s breath. I shrunk back against the seat, and tried to hold my breath. Miraculously, he remembered where he lived, and we drove him to a tiny, run-down house. We let him out of the car, and watched him walk to the door. We never saw that man again, although we drove that same stretch of road five or six times a week. Sometimes I wonder, if just maybe, he may have been an angel.
I will end with this: If we cannot reach out to God and to others, how can we obtain salvation? The Scriptures I have quoted in this article are so clear. We must come to God as little children. We need to show brotherly love and reach out to those around us. If we wish to grow in the Lord and see our churches progress spiritually, we must stop shunning those who look or act differently then we do. I know one thing; I want to be like Sis. So-in-so. I want to reach out to God with child-like faith, and I want to be loving and accepting of everyone around me. So here is my prayer: “Lord, forgive me for my judgmental spirit and my pride. Show me how to love as You love. Make me like a child.”
“Like A Child.” By Kendra Roberts Lynn is excerpted from www.90&99.com, April 2007.