Would you like to be a child again? Would you like to return to a time when you are young, with the world before you?
As we all know, the world is a different place from what it was ten, twenty, fifty years ago. Children today face significant challenges – perhaps the most debilitating of these challenges are those that arise from issues around obesity, social media and the culture of testing in our education environment. All of these can engender anxiety levels which if we are not careful may prove to be incessant and utterly counter to living life well. Anxiety and fear rob all the generations of so much – so it is imperative we discover life where confidence and grace are nurtured.
Jesus invites ‘let all the children come to me’. Come to be blessed, to be made whole, to be the person you were meant to be. Coming to Jesus means being loved completely, being given confidence to be who we are, being guided to enjoy life in every circumstance. When society today invites the children – it seems it is almost the exact reverse of these Jesus invitations – rather it is to over-eat and indulge, to be subsumed by the approval of others, and to be subjected to anxiety levels driven by relentless testing programmes.
The message of Jesus is pertinent to each of these elements. Jesus is described over and again eating in the company of others. We are to teach our children the value of the shared meal, gathering across the generations, where so much more than food is given and received. Jesus teaches us very directly to look to our Father in heaven for direction, forgiveness and value… ‘follow me and be my disciple’. And Jesus teaches us ‘not to worry…let tomorrow take care of itself’.
To be part of a community which accepts us simply as we are – without any prejudice or judgment, but simply in love and mercy – is integral to living life well. The context of family has the golden opportunity to provide this – and ‘family’ today can take many forms. No family will be perfect, no family will get everything right…but a family committed to the flourishing of each member is a unit where growth and confidence are guaranteed. The extended relationships of family are incredibly important as the different generations provide wisdom, experience and an energy for what is new – all of which helps both young and old to find and re-find perspective. Relationships, family relationships, are never a one way passage – there is always to and fro, backwards and forwards from one member to another.
The ministry of church is centred very much on this family grouping – in the many baptisms we host, in the comfort and hope provided in times of grief and in the joyous yet reverent celebration of marriage…to have and to hold. In all of these contexts the gathering together of family – to support, be-friend and just simply to be there – are central to the celebration or memorial. Children who grow up within a framework of relationships – relationships which bless and strengthen – have such an advantage.
In these really challenging times for our children we must remember to pray – for our own families and for those whose family is under pressure. And as we pray, we can choose to be the person who brings people together in ways of blessing and peace – to sit around the table, laugh and cry with each other, and share life together.