The problem is that they turn into teenagers and eventually adults and, truthfully, I like adults much less than I like children. Now, unless you're really new here, you probably know that I am a missionary. And so to hear that I don't really like people sometimes might be disturbing to some.
Let me clarify. I believe in the value of every life. I believe in the possibility of the redemption of every soul. Part of being a follower of Jesus is striving to love everyone (even people deemed "unlovable.")
But here's the thing-- I don't claim to speak for Jesus, but I don't *think* Jesus liked everyone. He loved everyone. He gave himself up for everyone. But I don't think he LIKED everyone. For example, the Pharisees and Sadducees-- he calls them a brood of vipers. They had evil intentions in their hearts and (because Jesus was about his Father's will), he couldn't tolerate that. And let's just be honest, the Pharisees and Saducees weren't particularly likable characters. Jesu spoke with truth and called them out on their sin. It wasn't fun for him to hang out with them. He did at times, but it was only for the purpose of trying to overcome evil with truth. It's not like they were his game-night-Pictionary-playing friends that he hung out with for fun. (I could go further and explain this part of what I am trying to say, but I think it's just tangential to what I want to communicate.)
So think about this.
If you're anything like me, there are probably adults that you don't like. And you probably don't like them for valid reasons. Maybe they've hurt you or others you love. Sometimes they are prideful or deceitful or a thieves. Sometimes I can't put my finger on why some people are unlikeable. But I would make the observation that some people just turn out to be jerks.
Now, let me ask you this-- how many times have you looked at a baby, a tiny little newborn baby, and said, "Wow, that baby is a kind of a jerk."?
How often do you look at a one month old baby just mastering the skill of holding up his head and think, "Well that's a jerk thing to do." ?
Or a two month old-- when she's all cooing and laughing. You don't think a baby like that is a tool.
At three months, he might start to roll over or at least try to. And all of this is met by parents and friends/relatives with great cheers and photo/video opportunities.
And so it goes. Babies develop. They begin to crawl and walk and talk. And it's adorable.
And then they begin to develop a personality. They wave and they play peek-a-boo and they blow kisses and the like. (*My heart is melting just thinking about it*... I really want another baby!)
And I would assert that physically, really, there are VERY few ugly children. Sure, some are cuter than other. Some, (like mine) are EXCEPTIONALLY cute (lol), but I am not sure the concept of ugly children really exists. If it does, I've never seen it. (Some might argue that point, but this is my blog... so bear with me or just stop reading.)
I heard someone at a conference say once (sorry I can't remember who it was--Sue Miller???) "Children are fresh, hot from the hands of God." Think about a batch of chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven. You put them on the cooling rack, give it a minute and then eat one... Heaven! They are hot and chewy and delicious. They are still good as they cool more and sit there, but outside influences (temperature, humidity, time) changes the experience.
It's like that with kids too. There becomes a point I've seen in kids (I am speaking for me, not for you) when kids start to be kind of jerky. The cookie starts to get a bit stale. They hit and bite and kick, even after they know they are not supposed to. I am not talking about childhood curiosity or normal testing of boundaries, I am talking about when children decide to be purposefully defiant. They get pleasure out of teasing other people. They laugh when other people get hurt. They pick on kids half their size. Some turn into "mean girls" or bullies.
And even when/if our kids start to become jerks, we (as parents) are still love them like crazy. We'd still die for them. But we start sometimes not to like them very much. Back to our analogy-- it's still a cookie-- cookies are good, but it doesn't seem as good as when it was first fresh out of the oven.
So how does that happen?
We can begin the discussion by talking about sin nature. I don't want start a big theological diatribe, so just in general terms, I would say that I think that there is a pull in us that tries to draw us into things that we know are wrong. People call it different things-- and really, you can call it whatever you want, but I think most people would not deny its existence. Most people would agree with the fact that there is right and wrong. (Where we would draw that line or the motivation for drawing that line might differ, but I think most of us agree that there is "good vs. evil" that exists in our world.) And for whatever reason, there are just times that things that we know are NOT good seem so enticing to us. I (personally) would call that our sin nature.
But I don't think that we can blame it all on our sin nature. Just because there might be a pull in one direction to do something wrong, doesn't mean we have to do it. There IS a nature component, but I think the nurture component is just as great (or probably greater) of a pull. Kids (young kids especially) are extremely pliable and will naturally model what they see happening around them. It's why my kids speak Kreyol better than me. Things sink into kids faster. And the fact is, broken people raise broken kids.
It's a vicious, unstoppable cycle apart from the grace of the Lord. It started with Eve in the garden of Eden but we all perpetuate this cycle. We are ALL the jerky adults that turn sweet fresh babies into sinners. We don't WANT to do this. We don't INTEND to do this, but we do. I love how Sarah Groves says it in her song Generations, "Eve was the first but she wasn't the last."
I posted this article from the Onion on my facebook the other day. It was hilarious. Just to be clear, the Onion is a parody. It's not real news, just a funny (and usually honest) look at social affairs. This article was about how the "Christian Right" is lobbying to overturn the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The jist of the parody is that these protesters think that if we simply take this phenomenon out of textbooks and use the courts to remove this concept as a scientific law of nature, then entropy will just stop happening.
Now, obviously, the article is ridiculous. We can't change a law of nature. But the fact that things in nature go from a state of order to disorder is not ONLY a natural process. Like with child-raising, there's also a nurture component. That gets into a lot of messy, no-easy-answer kinds of questions about stewardship of natural resources, poverty, race equality, etc... But let's keep it to the topic-- children.
God created children perfectly. They are the closest-to-God tangible thing that we can see. That's why there are no jerk babies. They might be sick or be colicky or fussy, but it doesn't mean they weren't created perfectly. But we don't blame the babies for those things. That's the nature of babies. When a baby is first born, it's the closest it will ever be to God's hands--his intentions for him/her-- while on this earth. And then a process of disorder-- both from nature and nurture-- starts to take place.
But when I think about all of this, my spirit doesn't get all gloomy with despair. If I believe in a good God (which I do), he would not give me a child (which he calls a blessing) without the tools I would need to see that through. So in spite of living in a fallen world, I have hope. Because while I may not be PHYSICALLY as "fresh, hot from the hands of God" as a child, I can choose to place myself in a place where I am spiritually made that way.
Think about this passage:
- "People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:13-16 (The same story is also present in Matthew and Luke as well).
So, then think about this passage:
- "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:1-5
In a nutshell, this is the role we have in preventing our children from turning into jerks. We submit ourselves to the spiritual laws that prevent the entropy of our soul. We model these behaviors and we PRAY for these spiritual realities to overcome the natural tendencies we all have in us that cause us to want things that are not good for us.
I will be the first to say that I don't have this down. I REALLY don't have this down. If I am going to be honest and transparent, I look at my own life and many days, I just see a big jerk-- (though I will also say that I see where I have employed the Holy Spirit to help overcome certain behaviors that would make me an even bigger jerk.) I look at my own kids, and I have marks all over the continuum. I have some kids that really seek to feed/submit to the spiritual and I have some kids that really seek to feed/submit to the natural. Because of free will there is not a formula you can complete that will make you have non-jerk kids.
But, even so, it's not a passive process.
Left to play out naturally, the outcome will likely not be good.
In the same verse where God calls children a blessing, he also calls them a heritage. We will pass along a heritage to our children. At first glance, heritage seems like a good, strong word. Something that carries with it proud family traditions and customs. But a heritage is not always a good thing. You could also pass a heritage of alcoholism, or abuse, or adultery (0r any number of things that we do not want to be remembered for.)
It's up to us what our heritage will look like.
So my challenge to you (and to myself) today is to ask, "What behaviors am I exhibiting in my life that I'd really NOT like to pass on to my children?" And then--and here's the key-- submit those behaviors to the Lord so that the spiritual may overcome the natural.