Morning arrives by the clock and not the sun today. It’s rainy, 11 degrees, windy and gray. It’s December 1st, but it doesn’t feel like it.
I wake to kids fighting over an Advent calendar, fighting over Lego, bowling each other over to go first at something, even if only to open the new cereal box. Kids snarl at each other, adults snap back. Is this what I get up for?
I take my coffee, turn around, and head back upstairs.
Living with people is no easy thing. Their moods, their stuff, their demands, their needs, their outbursts.
And I am just like them.
Alone in my room, I get back under the blankets. I look out the window, wishing it was snow instead of rain. That would be much more Decemberish. I don’t want to engage this day.
Then I reach for my little leather Bible, perched on top of the precarious stack of books beside my bed. I’ve been slowly reading through the gospel of Mark. Keeping in step with Jesus is good for me. The ribbon bookmark opens to chapter 9, verses 33-37. The section begins with the disciples arguing on the road over who gets to be the greatest. (Do we ever really grow up?) I can’t help but laugh. I can picture it so well.
Jesus’ answer to this undignified jostling? The greatest in the kingdom of God is the one who serves the other. If you want to be first, really first, you’ll have to be content with going last.
And then, Jesus looks and sees a child on the outskirts of the conversation. I wonder, was the kid eavesdropping, curious over how this argument among adults would end? Was there going to be a lecture, or someone put in their place? I imagine Jesus smiling, catching the boy’s eye, gesturing for him to come closer. And if I was one of the disciples, I would be thinking, Why is this kid interrupting our important discussion?
There are no interruptions when Jesus has his way. Only opportunities.
He takes the boy in his arms, and the heart of the matter takes a curious twist. What does this insignificant tiny person have to do with anything? Jesus knows. “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
How to get to the front of the line? Notice the people in the back.
How to get noticed by Jesus? Keep your eye on what he cares about.
How to get all the way to the One in charge of it all? Go with the man who lifts the tired kids up on his shoulders.
It’s a backwards way to be the best.
Suddenly my covers don’t seem so comfortable after all.
I stare down at those little red letters, so alive on the page. I am thankful God speaks even to ears only half awake. Do I want to keep in step with Jesus?
Look, I tell myself. The best way to welcome Jesus into my day is to welcome the very people who upend my day before it even begins. If this day is going to be great in any way, I’m going to have to get off my high horse (or screen, or couch, or lecture platform) and take someone needy in my arms.
Engage. Isn’t this another word for welcome? They’re already here after all. I can’t escape that reality. But am I really here with them, and for them?
Engage, not in arguing, but in serving. Serving not as enabling, but looking to the need beyond the outburst. Where is love needed? Don’t all these rumblings and ruptures show our broken need for another way?
I need it.
And I can’t enforce this kingdom like a criminal code, only embrace it till it transforms me from a grumpy, set-in-stone stump to a living shoot, green and spreading, that whispers, look, there is life here if you choose the servant-seed way of Jesus.
Easy? Not always. But possible. Yes. Especially when I remember that I am the little child embraced first, and he still lifts me.
The words fall like rain on our thirsty morning. I throw off the blankets, and go back downstairs.