BIBLE READINGS: Psalm 127 Mark 12: 38-44
In every moment, we are every age we have ever been, according to psychologist Carl Rogers. This means, our bodies are like a bus riding down the highway of life and all of the passengers are who we have been at every age. As we travel through life, certain things that we see, hear and experience evoke feelings of great joy, love, and calm or trigger tremendous anxiety, pain and fear for the different ages of who we are. When this happens, whatever age is triggered, we react to our experiences at the emotional level we had at that age.
When children are treated like they are not important, are told they not smart enough or good enough, valued more for their accomplishments than for the unique individuals they are, are treated like they only have value if they have money, or abused emotionally, physically or sexually, the impact of those feelings never goes away. Those feelings continue to ride on the bus.
Because the child within us never goes away, the impacts of childhood abuse and neglect are long-term unless there is meaningful intervention. Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59 percent, as an adult by 28 percent, and for a violent crime by 30 percent. According to UNICEF, “Every year, hundreds of millions of children are exposed to domestic violence at home and this has a powerful and profound impact on their lives and hopes for the future… Violence in the homes is one of the most pervasive human rights challenges of our time…; it is a global phenomenon… Children exposed to violence may have difficulty learning and limited social skills, exhibit violent, risky, or delinquent behaviour, or suffer from depression or severe anxiety.”
What this means for us as a community of faith dedicated to serving Christ in the powerless and less fortunate, is that it all begins with the care of all children. In order to have peace and justice in the world, we must develop a critical mass of people who are emotionally healthy, socially responsible, spiritually connected. To develop this critical mass, we must pay greater attention to the messages we give to our children and youth about the value of all life, including their own. That’s what the scripture means, “Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re older they won’t be lost.” Proverbs 22:6
There millions of children around the world who are lost today, and they engage in risky or violent behaviours attempting to find their way. In response to this global crisis, there are a growing number of community-based projects in collaboration with court systems aimed at stemming the rising tide of juvenile delinquency.
What is our spiritual calling regarding children and youth? Throughout the scriptures, we are called upon to care for, protect, and honour children. The psalmist urges that “children are a heritage from the Lord”? (Psalm 127:3) What does it mean that children are a heritage from God and what difference should that make in our choices and actions regarding children and youth?
Heritage as something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth or law. By virtue of their birth, every child needs to be recognised and regarded as God’s heritage. As such, every child, even those who get lost along the way, need to be nurtured to understand whose child they are. Not just their physical traits coming through particular biological parents, but spiritually who they are as God’s own children. Most parents see their children as their heritage; but ultimately, they are God’s.
When we see ourselves and others as God’s heritage, we will be more diligent to help those who are lost because of maltreatment, violence and abuse. Troubled youth, runaways, delinquent youth, and all of the categories we use, are lost and need help to find their way. All of us have our own inner children who need to know they are loved, valued, and heritage from God. As they know who they are and whose they are, their lives are transformed. This is the work to which we are all called for all the children on the bus, whatever ages they are.
Acknowledgement: Dr. Cari Jackson from Odyssey Networks