“For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Good morning, Father.

In Your Word last week, You called us to be like little children.

Matthew 19:13-15 – Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

As I have been working to finally finish framing old family photos for our wall at home, I found myself fascinated with photos of our family when I was still little, before and just on the cusp of my age of reason.

The soft look in my eyes (even in those photos that where posed by a photographer), the slight upturn of my mouth, just hinting at a smile. When the rest of my family was obediently saying “cheese,” with their big open-mouthed smiles, mine stayed more hidden somehow. My eyes betrayed something — a depth of some sort — that seemed to overwhelm the photographer’s ability to direct the appearance of the rest of my face.

I have tried to couple those early views of myself, Father, with early memories— those times and events and words that stand-out from back then.

My earliest memory has always been at age three or so, when, walking with my mother, we witnessed a dog being hit by a bus. My mother shielded me from seeing anything but the initial impact. She told me not to look. Still, her fierce protection couldn’t make me un-hear the bus’s impact or the dog’s yelp or, indeed, to un-see the hit itself.

Fast forward several years and I was making mud pies with the little boy next door. My father came to fetch me asking what I was doing. I told him we were making special healing cakes for the little puppy (the little guy was part of a litter of bigger, healthier-seeming pups.) My father said he thought I’d always feel sorry for the ‘runt of the litter.’ I didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but his tone of voice made me sure he didn’t particularly approve.

Around that same time, we were all on a long day of shopping in a nearby city, a special time for the whole family to be together. I remember toward the bottom of the afternoon being so sleepy, probably whiny, too.

I don’t remember making a conscious decision to crawl under one of the garment carousels and curl up to sleep, but that’s where they finally found me. I understand now how terrified my parents must have been — not unlike when Mary and Joseph lost Your Son, Father — but back then, I can vaguely remember feeling like it was a good place to stay out of everyone’s way. Still, the spanking I received when we got home (Dad made sure I had several hours to consider what I’d done and the consequences that awaited me) was given with a clear message that my behavior put myself at risk and left those around me to worry without cause (Dad didn’t ponder things in his heart quite the way Mary did, but he encouraged me to.)

I’m not sure what any of this has to do with anything, Father, except that I can remember that little girl cared for the injured and the weak and puny and, even though I made my parents worry, my intention had not been to hide, so much as to stay out of everyone’s way.

I know I’m given to introspection, Father, maybe more than most, maybe too much. Yet, I want to know — as clearly as You allow me to, gracious Lord — who You originally created me to be, before my age of reason. Before I learned to sneak around, to lie, to do things I knew clearly I wasn’t supposed to do, to seek approval from the in-crowd, to lose Your way for me in search of my own. Before the fear.

Is it possible to recapture that person, that little girl, to whom the Kingdom of heaven belonged so long ago.