Over and over “gin” I heard my niece make this request of me. I was happy to comply, flipping her upside down or tossing her over my shoulder. She is fearless. And she is loved.
The attitude my family has towards children can sometimes border on idolization. We love them with all our hearts. Each and every grownup stands in line waiting to pick up the youngest in our family – beaming the first time the toddler tries to speak his or her name. Last night my 1-year-old niece brought tears to my uncle’s eyes when she looked up and exclaimed “Ter!” The 1st syllable of Terry’s name was enough to melt his heart.
It is amazing that the children in my family ever learn to walk. There is always a grownup who is more than willing to carry the young prince or princess wherever the chubby, little finger points.
“All children should be loved this much.”
That was a passing comment that my mom made last night as she watched me playing with my niece on the kitchen floor. As her words sunk in, our beloved baby was giggling with delight while the rest of us felt like we had been punched in the gut. What I wouldn’t give to be able to lavish love on the forgotten and abused children of the world! The thought of crimes committed, hearts unprotected and innocence stolen makes my blood boil and it evokes the wrath of God.
Once the disciples asked Jesus a question, most likely out of selfish ambition. Jesus, as He always does, reveals His heart and theirs…
“Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?”
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.
“But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do. (Matthew 18:1b-7)
Where love is scarce, fear chokes out playful giggles.
Children grow into adults. Crimes and abuse against them shape their character, their hearts and their futures. A child comes into the world trusting, dependent, requiring protection in order to survive. For those who quickly understand that they cannot trust those meant to protect them, their providers fail to care for their needs, and allow them to be exploited rather than protected, the result is a scarred soul. They are robbed of the ability to trust. Survival becomes uncertain, a full and meaningful life is a fairytale.
Is it any wonder that God’s reserves His harshest judgement for the neglectful, selfish, evil perpetrators of children?
There is hope for these wounded children. They are not forgotten by their Maker.
Even more shocking, there is hope for those guilty of crimes against children. He doesn’t turn a blind eye to their crimes, He offers freedom from their bondage of sin.
The love God has for His children does not decrease or dissolve as we grow older.
He is constant in His love.
He is merciful and forgiving.
He redeems our lives.