Ever since leaving the hospital, I have been on and off battling some pretty intense depression. I tell you that for two reasons. One, because sometimes it’s good for others to see our weakness, and know their struggles are normal and don’t disqualify any of us from the affections of God. And two, because if you’re the praying type, that’s how you can pray for me (and my family).
A dear friend who I’ve been friends with for about half my lifetime called me today, knowing I was in the thick of some raging emotional turmoil, to pray for me. She asked me what I had to be grateful for right now. My mind immediately went to the kids at my church. I have a pretty special friendship with all of them. In fact, yesterday, on the heels of my hospital stay, some kids and I had a dance party in the back of the church sanctuary.
One girl, who wears her heart on her sleeve, and only hugs people if she really wants to, lights up like a stadium light, flings her arms wide, shouts my name, flies at me with her brilliant, beaming smile, and tackles me with her hugs. Every. Time. I. See. Her. It’s bliss! Another family has three toddlers, who have become dear friends, and shower me with the same affections. I’ve been teaching Sunday School, and seen kids roll in with a chip on the shoulder, and after a few weeks, soften all around the edges and talk freely with joy and peace and easiness of soul. Kids show me the face of God!
Last night, my pastor and another friend (a mom of some of these amazing kids), were joking about whether or not my joy around children is childishness or childlikeness. Suddenly, the mom turned to me and said “The thing is, Space, you dancing in the back… You were doing the thing we all wanted to do, but were too embarrassed to”.
Maybe that’s why we have such a special bond. Because we share a sense of wonder, glee, and a free-spirited willingness to act like goofballs in public.
I remember when I first realized how Jesus felt about kids. About how He basically chewed His disciples out for turning them away, then exalted the kids by telling His disciples they should become like kids if they wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven. Now, obviously, kids still have a sin-nature, and I fully believe kids need disciplined, but I also think they need delighted in. And that we need to lean in, and learn from them.
Kids tend to be the most under-appreciated members of society. They are often treated like burdens, and parents long for the day when their kids become self-sufficient. When I realized how God felt about kids, I began to get at ground level and try to see things from their vantage point. I began to watch and learn and pray about how I was to become like them. I began to see the value of wonder, dependence, and even being a little messy around the edges. Kids don’t polish themselves up and wear masks like grown-ups tend to do. It’s taught me that God is content with me being a little messy around the edges too. He still delights in me when I have mud splattered on my cheeks and grass stains on my knees, or when I am bleeding, wailing and clutching my wounds.
I was at a Nepali orphanage once, with these two little girls both tucked into my arms. They were taking turns planting kisses on my cheeks, and I was taking turns planting them on their’s. Suddenly, it occurred to me that my heart literally felt like exploding in my chest (from joy, not a heart attack). I was overcome with the most jubilant affection for these two little girls who had no mothers of their own to plant their kisses on. As I was confessing to God how I felt like my heart was growing three sizes, He said something like, “And that’s how I feel about you! That’s why I want you to become like a kid. Because kids are more receptive to My affections.”
Now that I think about it, I don’t really know any kids that battle depression (unless they have been through some kind of trauma, or are old enough for their brain to absorb stress). So, maybe there’s something to becoming like them that is also the cure for my depression. Either way, just thinking about our dance party revives my joy! Thank you to all the parents who have let me befriend your awesome kids! They really do show me the face of God, and teach me about how He delights in me!