Matthew 18:10-14 CEB
10 “Be careful that you don’t look down on one of these little ones. I say to you that their angels in heaven are always looking into the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off? 13 If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. 14 In the same way, my Father who is in heaven doesn’t want to lose one of these little ones.
God Seeks the Child’s Heart
My son Isaiah was around two when I was in grad school full-time while being his primary caretaker during the day. I miss those days . . . sometimes Beaming Face With Smiling Eyes. The relationship-building with my son and the lessons learned from Jesus in that season, are treasure maps that continue to reveal their gems for me today.
There was a fountain-pool containing goldfish at some apartments near our old house. My son used to beg me to take him there. He loved circling the fountain, waddling along bricks, looking for the goldfish that were hiding in aquatic nooks and crannies—they were hiding from him. I would frequently feel impatient and antsy to get back home and get to work on reading a theology textbook or the paper I needed to write.
On one such trip to the gofiss watta (as Isaiah pronounced it) Isaiah was so elated by this water playground that he shrieked with voice and body: "hug watta! HUG WATTA!" Before I even thought to shush him, I was lunging towards to keep him from taking a plunge.
"You can't hug water," I chastised rationally.
"Yis, yis! Can hug watta!" Isaiah turned into me and buried his face into my chest in tears.
I melted. And then I realized the profundity of the moment. Greatness and the Kingdom of God are not prizes at the top rung of the ladders of success, or ambition, or achievement, or maturity, or put-together-ness, or educational honors. Earlier in this chapter, the disciples were in a competitive banter around who was the G.O.A.T. in the Kingdom of Heaven. They didn’t anticipate their pie-in-the-face moment as Jesus, in an unconventional move, brings a little child front and center saying, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” It is in childlikeness where we take on a poverty, a meekness, and a purity of heart which opens us up to to the movement of the Spirit and the wonders of the kingdom of God. It is in embracing trust, dependence, vulnerability, and a courage towards the impossible that we rise from the depths of the waters. It is also in embracing this Kingdom character, that we truly teach and model for our little ones.
The journey to the Cross takes us off the beaten path. Where the 99 sheep are safe and secure, God calls us to chase the one who has wandered lost, because this is the value of the Kingdom. But it’s hard for us to move away from the center of attention, the center of power, the center of what is reputable, conventional, successful, competent—the center of the Empire where adults and politicians converse loudly in closed circles. I think Jesus also understood that the evil in a society can be signaled by the way its children are systematically neglected, exploited, and hurt by the machine. Jesus says don’t cause any one of these little ones to fall away. Jesus says don’t look down on these little ones. Because God cares deeply for the children and all others who get lost in the fray and the margins.
Go and hug the impossibilities in your life today! Speak life into your relationships today through humility. Watch and see the unconventional and sometimes downright silly-foolishness transform to new avenues and possibilities and miracles through courageous plunging and leaps of faith.