It has been just over two weeks since the most recent school shooting in our country. With all the news coverage and arguments in the aftermath, it feels more like months have passed. Mass shootings have become a dismal routine in our country, but something about this one is different. Children are reacting to the tragedy in Parkland in a new and ardent way.
A group of teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have taken it upon themselves to be more than mere survivors. It would be hard to argue that these children, reeling from tragedy, are anything but sincere. In their passion and surprising eloquence, they have become leaders in their own right. A person does not have to agree with the solutions they propose in order to hear their words and take them seriously.
These high school students, thrust into the national spotlight, have been a reminder to me of how we adults view our children. To stand up for them, so often folks will say something along the lines of “Children are our future” or “They are our future leaders.” It is important for parents and educators to make decisions with the future in mind, but our kids are not merely waiting on the sidelines for their chance to take part in society. It would be a mistake to prescribe age limits or life achievements to any person before fully recognizing them in all their unique and wonderful humanity.
In the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, there is a brief story about folks bringing children to Jesus. His disciples, we are told, “spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.’” Older folks may try to keep power away from their younger successors as long as they can, but in the Kingdom of God, children are already in charge.
On Sunday, our little family will be celebrating a whole year with our daughter, Linden. How odd it is to speak of her existence in the future tense. Yes, she has only just completed her first of many trips around the sun, but she is so much more than mere potential. I have peanut butter on my shirt, bags under my eyes, and board books strewn across the floor that prove she is very much defining my life in the here and now. She is my present and current reality. I already miss who she was in the past, and God willing she will one day be my future.
We all have hopes and dreams. When you look at the children in your life, you might even be able to catch a sneak peek into who they will be in the years to come. Today, though, let us celebrate our youth for the curiosity and the joy they inject into the world now. Any parent who has lost a child will tell you that we must treasure our children today. So, as you seek to be an influence on those younger than you, may you recognize how they too are capable of changing you in each and every present moment.
Pastor Chad McKenna