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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Life for the Littles

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

I am Nana to three precious grands, and Auntie to a whole crew of littles. Last week several of them slept in our bunkhouse for an extended Labor Day vacation. It was delightful. Each kiddo is so unique and legitimately special, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them all. When Monday came and the last van drove away, we stood on our driveway blowing kisses. There was a big old ache in the depths of my heart. I looked at my dog and she looked at me as if to say, “Wow, that was fun. I’m exhausted—but sad. I’m going to miss those busy little humans.”

A couple of weeks ago I was at my son’s house for my normal Tuesday evening hangout with grandkids. I’d only been there a few minutes when Maisy asked if I wanted to see her backpack. Turns out the next day was her first day back-to-school. She’s four and ready for full-day preschool, three whole days every week. I guess I’d been clueless and hadn’t realized all this was happening—school starting in mid-August, all those full days, and my grand-girl about to grow up. And I was not one bit ready.

I catch myself these days, doing what the old people do. Thinking about the big scary world and my precious littles and wishing the two wouldn’t ever have to meet. I much prefer their innocence to the inevitable realities to come.

But there’s one habit of the elderly I refuse to embrace, and that is the tendency to prophecy doom over the next generation. “The world has never been so bad, and things are getting worse, and woe and calamity awaits the future.” Or some such nonsense. The way I see it, good and evil have been duking it out since the beginning of time, and our current age is not really worse—it’s just different. Different evils, and different opportunities for good. Maybe I’m a bit Pollyanna in my way of thinking, especially when it comes to matters of faith. I honestly think there is plenty of reason to hope. Not to mention I am quite certain HOPE was always meant be a core tenant of our Christian faith.

One thing that’s certainly different for this generation is the state of the church. (Of course, looking back over the history of small-c churches, there have always been plenty of changes.) Today we see statistics about younger people leaving churches in droves. Now to be fair—this statistic applies mostly to our own country. The growth of churches in non-western nations has never been greater.*

I recently heard the primary reason young adults are giving, when asked why they’re leaving, is “church has become too political.” Point taken. And actually—if you ask me—this insight might lead to promising results. Perhaps our young people have been given a very clear picture of what church SHOULDN’T look like. And maybe the day will come sooner than later when those who’ve left will become aware of the inevitable God-sized void—the Holy Spirit doing His work of drawing them back—and maybe by then those of us who have stuck it out will be able to give our young folks a better vision. A vision not of a political church, but of an actual Kingdom.

Last weekend on one of the mornings when I was awake before the rest of my full house and was able to sneak out to my porch with a hot cup of coffee, I read something in my Bible I’d read hundreds of times before. It was the “parable of the sower” from Matthew’s gospel. But as often happens, this time I must have read the emPHAsis on a different syllABLE and it came out sounding new somehow.

“So listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” (Matthew 13:18-19)

(Emphasis mine.)

Big-C Church is synonymous with Jesus’ Kingdom. An “Unseen Kingdom” that spans the globe and is in this world (here and now) but was never meant to be OF it. An upside down Kingdom where the last are first, and the poor are rich, and death to self leads to fullness of life. A Kingdom where Jesus is King, and He is the only one who deserves our allegiance. A kingdom whose citizens span denominations and nations, classes and culture, and even political lines.

So, what does this have to do with the children?

There’s a whole generation of precious littles (not to mention their mamas and dads) who are waiting for us older folks to rise up and show them what Jesus’ Kingdom looks like. The world can be ugly. It always has been and always will be. Sooner or later our innocent kids are bound to learn all about it. But there’s a Kingdom out there, too—beautiful and good. And they need to know this Kingdom is real.

To use Jesus’ word-picture, now is the time to plant real-Kingdom seeds in the fertile soil of the hearts of our precious littles.

*A quote from When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett & Brian Finkkert:

As Christianity expanded across the Roman world, the urban poor were on center stage of the drama. And the same is true today. Historian Philip Jenkins documents that Christianity is experiencing explosive growth in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia, regions of the world often called the “Majority World.” For example, by 2025, in terms of numbers of adherents, Africa will have replaced Europe and the United States as the center of Christianity…And like the the early church, the growth in the church in the Majority World is taking place primary with the poor on center stage. Jenkins observes: “The most successful new denominations target their message very directly at the have-nots, or rather, the have nothings.”

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