Things have an apocalyptic (in the world-ending sense of the word) feel to them these days.
A massive explosion in Lebanon. Wildfires and rolling blackouts here at home. A derecho storm taking out swaths of the Midwest. Back-to-back hurricanes threatening the southern US. Shady governmental dealings in Belarus and Russia and China (okay, so, nothing new there).
And, of course, underlying it all, sickness and death. Economic uncertainty (to say the least). A way of life drastically changed from what it was six months ago.
It’d be easier to remind myself that nothing’s new, that the world was ever full of sin and pain and heartache and trials, if the sun didn’t rise red in the east each morning, if miniscule bits of ash didn’t drift down from the sky like powder each afternoon.
Do you know what brings me joy right now?
In the past week or two, Miles discovered he can walk. One day, he was a crawler. The next, a walker.
Now, he parades around with that bandy-legged, high-stepping march of the unsteady toddler, beaming his pride at anyone who will look his way. Sometimes, he beats his hands against his chest or his round little tummy, as though to say, “Look. Look who’s doing this thing. It’s me, that’s who. I’m doing it.”
I could watch him all day.
There’s this scene in the gospels where the disciples try to guard Jesus’ time, try to protect him from the insatiable demands of the crowd. Some parents have come, wanting a blessing for their children, and Peter and the gang turn them away.
Surely, the Lord has more important things to do. There’s a whole world of brokenness out there, needing his attention.
Jesus, of course, will have none of it.
“Let the little children come to me,” he tells them.
Rome rules with an iron fist. The Pharisees are out for his blood. The world is full of hurt and division and pain, but in my imagination (which, admittedly, may have little bearing on reality), the children toddle forward, arms stretched wide for balance, and Jesus grins, welcoming them with joy.
This weekend, we spent some time with a little boy about Miles’s age who’s been walking for a few months. As Miles lurched across the uneven ground, falling and getting up and falling and getting up on repeat, this guy trotted to and fro with ease, trying to keep up with his siblings.
No unsteady steps for him; he has places to go, people to see, big kids to chase. No proud chest-thumping here; walking is old-hat, routine.
It won’t be long before that’s Miles, too. A week or two, give or take, before he’s stable and confident enough to sport a less practiced gait.
This stage is so short. Blink, and you’ll miss it.
Jesus didn’t spend all – or even most – of his time enjoying children. He wasn’t oblivious to the state of the world.
He cautioned his followers to be as shrewd as serpents, as innocent as doves. He sparred, both verbally and physically, with those who got it wrong. He openly criticized those in power. He got frustrated and angry. He wept for the hearts of those who rejected him, for the grief and the pain that were the inevitable results of such a decision.
But when the opportunity presented itself, when the little children were brought to him, he took them into his arms and he blessed them. And, though the text doesn’t explicitly say it, I dare say he delighted in them, too.
Things have an apocalyptic feel to them these days, but you know what’s bringing me joy?