Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Velveteen Rabbit Syndrome

I have a lot of friends with specia lneeds. I spend a lot of time hanging out with these friends and thinking abouttheir needs. I think and pray about how I can step into their lives in meaningful ways. I am far more blessed by these friendships than any of them are, I'm sure. We have a mutual appreciation for the times and memories we share.
It is in that frame that I came to Mark 9:41-50 this week to try to write a Children's Page (as I do every Sunday to go along with the sermon). What do I do with millstones drowning people and hell fires burning and cutting off hands or feet and gouging out eyes? No texactly the typical stuff for children's Bible hour!
Jesus talks about little ones and I ponder what He means. Does He mean specifically a person who is under the age of 12 or so like the little child he used as a visual teaching aid just a few verses earlier? Yes, I think He includes children in what He means but I propose that He means child in a broader sense.
I believe Jesus had on His mind and in His heart that day in Capernaum people like He spent most of His time on earth hanging out with - people who had special needs and challenges: the lame,the blind, the deaf and mute, a child who had severe epileptic seizures, other spossessed by demons, a woman who was bleeding for 12 years and many more! I believe ALL of these are included when Jesus says one of these little ones.
This passage in Mark begins with the positive admonition: Anyone who gives youa cup of cold water in My name because you belong to Me will certainly not lose his reward. (vs. 41) We are to give the cup of cold water. That can be to a friend or to a stranger. Someone brings a cup of cold water to my husband every Sunday. It sits close by in case he needs it while he’s preaching. That same husband gets very hot and thirsty when he's cutting our grass. I often take him a cup of cold water. Hopefully I do it in the name of Jesus in the sense of wanting to do all I do coram Deo - before the face of God! [To live coram Deois to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God and to the glory of God.]
Then Jesus continues, And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. And it gets worse talkingabout cutting off hands and feet ...........
What is Jesus so exercised about?What is so serious that it warrants chopping off essential body parts or gouging out an eye?
Well, here it is: I believe the essence of what Jesus is talking about which includes much more than just a young child is these who may be childlike for their entire lives. What abou tthem? Do we step-up-to-bat for these and advocate for them? Are we willing to step outside our comfort zone for these?
The logical conclusion brings us to the question: Where is the church (as in all believers) and where are individual believers in this business of offering the cup of cold water in the name of Jesus to a little one? AND where is the Christian community in stepping up to insure physical, mental, emotional and spiritual help for these little ones? How far outside our comfort zone are we willing to step for these little ones?
It's a compelling question that I believe comes straight from the heart of God! It's a question that demands a serious response! Perhaps that pulls in the part about the hand and foot and eye as well. Are we willing to get our hands and feet and eyes (as well as our hearts) engaged in serving these littleones?
We have a granddaughter who has Down Syndrome. She is one of these little ones. She will be 16 in a few weeks, but she doesn't function in most ways like any typical 16-year-old. She is one of these and will still be one of these littleones when she's 20 and 30 and 40 and more! Where is the church for her?
I don't have pat answers and solutions. I'm already stepping outside my comfort zone but not because I havea grand plan. I just know that I want to be the heart and hands and feet of Jesus extending love and genuine acceptance to little ones like these special friends of mine! And the amazing thing I’m discovering is that I don’t have to know a lot about disabilities. The best equipment for this calling is love in my heart – the love of and for Jesus – and a willingness to be REAL!
In case you don’t know what REAL is,the best description I know is found in the pages of a children’s storybook:
What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real

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