Skimming the table of contents of Nick Wolterstoff's recently published collection of essays entitled Hearing the Call, I found two articles leaping off the page at me: "Letter to a Young Theologian" and "Playing with Snakes: A Word to Seminary Graduates." I'll reserve my reflections to the latter.
One of Wolterstorff's exhortations in this "word" for seminary graduates is that they work with and care for children. Offering Isaiah 11:6-9 as a text for consideration, he argues that this passage should be a "formative image" for their ministry. A little child shall lie down with and lead wolves, lions, leopards, and play around vipers. "It is your calling to do what you can to be a voice for these voiceless ones. It is your calling to struggle to make the world a place in which their innocent, vulnerable playfulness is appropriate." As I read these words, a resounding "amen" slipped from my lips . . .
. . . followed by feelings of delight and terror.
I remember the first time I used a public restroom after I knew I was going to be father. There I was, using the toilet, and I became aware of an object on my right that was never before within my field of experience: a changing table. Parenthood—in more ways than one—changes your perspective. It reorients you. It gives you a new set of eyes, whether you use it or not. I never noticed changing tables in public restrooms before that night. Now I unsuccessfully try to ignore them.
The kingdom of God comes with a new set of eyes, too.
Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to a child (Matt. 19:14). We should take pause at that. It's figurative, but it's also literal. Jesus invited his disciples to have a heart and a mind like a child (Matt. 18:3), but he also attracted and kept children close by (Mark 10:13, 16). And woe to those who try to keep these little ones away from him (Matt. 18:6)! The kingdom of God revolves around children. In fact, as the apostle Paul makes clear, to become a citizen of this kingdom is to become a child of God (Gal. 3:26).
Being a voice for children is the pastor's calling. Similarly, it's the calling of those combatting human trafficking in organizations like International Justice Mission. But it doesn't end there. It's also our calling—a calling for all citizens of God's kingdom.
As we sculpt, investigate plate tectonics, propose marketing strategies, coach tennis, or sit on city planning committees, we must do what we can do to give voice, space, and time for children. We must do what we can to create, discover, advance, encourage, and plan for them.
If we did, I think our day-to-day activities would be different. The substance of our work would change.
I would like to think that our bathrooms would have more changing tables. Our cities would have more gardens. Our neighborhoods would have more playgrounds. Our buildings would have more colour. Our offices would have more toys. Our books would have more pictures. Our briefcases would have more crayons. Our classrooms would have more free time. Our questions would have more wonder and vulnerability. Our relationships would have more devotion and joy. Our worship would have more recreation and movement.
Rome was built for adults, and it fell. The new Jerusalem is built for children, and it never will. Go. Do what you can to make this city of children flourish. And while you're at it, make sure to play a little.