If you happened to catch Facebook Live Prayer last night, I’m sure you saw the paradox.
My kids were driving me crazy. They read prayers in funny voices. They made unrelated comments. They made the sound and video quality low. They played with the camera and made faces. They threw what I think was a sock across the room at me. They made me the “hot mess mom” in a time when I really wanted to just be a “pastor mom.” I was at my wits end.
Then in the middle of that train wreck, they ask important questions about prejudice and racism. Lately adults have been fighting about these issues. White people, of which I am one, seem to be putting their fingers in their ears when they are not pointing the finger back at the people of color who are pointing out inequality and injustice.
But not kids. They ask the right questions. They are curious. They don’t mind when you point out the evidence that something is wrong. Lydia made the same statement as many white adults have, “but you aren’t prejudice,” but she said it without being defensive. When I pointed out that I don’t have local friends who are black, she stated the obvious response, that is because there aren’t many people of color in our town and community. Then she let me ask the question that gets to the root of our problem in Indiana and the United States as a whole. Why are there no people of color in our community?
It is because of our history of racism. It is because of systematic prejudice, where people are not safe because of the color of their skin. It is because they were not free to have a house in certain communities. It is because houses and land are left as inheritances, so they are trapped in the history of racism and prejudice that is no longer legal.
So here is the paradox. The kids make everything more chaotic, but also much more meaningful at the same time. So, despite my declaration after the camera was off that we will never do that again, we probably will. Because I know they will ask the hard questions and bring up the white elephants.
This is why we need to make room for them in our congregations. Not so we feel young again. Not as a sign of our growth and future. We need them to say the truth without any political agenda, no matter how ugly it is. We need children because Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to them. If we want to understand it better and be a part of it as well, we need the chaos and honesty of children in the room. That means they can’t just be seen and not heard. Because what they say is often the truth we need to hear most.