Shoes of Gold
A childhood dream came true. It may not have been grand for the adult me but it was awesome for the six-year-old inside. Ever since I was a child I've wanted to have a pair of shoes of gold. I turn 40 next year. I could have bought a pair of golden shoes a dozen times but I never did.
I needed a pair of slacks and went to a store. A shoe shop nearby had a clearance sale. I went inside and there they were, my shoes of gold. Wow.., at the price of 10 dollars. I bought them.
I wore them to church that night. It was torture on high heels! But it was worth it.
People brought their children to Jesus. They wanted him to lay hands on them and pray for them. The disciples were not the least impressed by such lack of respect for the master. They felt he should attend to more urgent matters than kids with smudgy faces, runny noses and saggy bottoms. They scolded the parents and pushed them away. Perhaps they said that Jesus was going to give another sermon on the mount, heal a blind man or two or even more noble, going to a mountain and pray.
Though children of today are considered rude and lacking in etiquette, compared to earlier times, I cannot imagine that those kids stood quietly in a single line. I suppose they were playing and fooling around, swirling up dust in the burning sun while the grown ups argued about priorities in life.
When Jesus sees this he is indignant.
All my adult years I've been waiting for me to grow up, to become an adult. I've felt so fragile, vulnerable and "immature". I was aware of the child inside but I wanted it to go away.
Within us all is a child, which sometimes sneaks through the doorway. Usually it happens unexpectedly rather than on special occasions. The child catches us off guard, looking like a mess and making a scene. We want the child to sit quietly, well dressed and well mannered in the parlour so the grown ups can admire our pedagogic skills while they discuss important issues.
Jesus said to the grown ups: "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:14-15)
Jesus calls the children to him.
Hardly did he say with an authoritative voice, with his nose in the wind: "Dear children, come and I shall place my hand upon your heads and bless you."
In the first place, children don't like to be touched by strangers. Who hasn't had an aunt that pinched our cheek and said: "You have grown!"
Not to mention the lipsticky kisses with a giggling audience because we were so cute with the lip print on our face.
To earn a child's trust one has to respect its personal boundaries and relate to it on it's own terms. We shouldn't force children. And certainly not to kiss everyone good-bye.
When Jesus is done with the grown ups he turns to the children.
He smiles to them. He squats and reaches out with an open hand. His eyes are asking: "Want to come?"
For some time now I've paid more attention to this child and tried to be considerate of it. When I think about it, getting the golden shoes was an act of fulfilling a wish of that child. The shoes of gold were a fantasy of being special, a princess. I guess I thought I didn't deserve that place. I am aware that buying those shoes was a sign of my acceptance of that child, that I bought those shoes because I felt I was special, that I should wear the shoes of a princess.
When I see Jesus smile I don't hesitate any longer. I gallop to him through the dust and he says: "Such beautiful shoes you have!" My shyness evaporates and he may touch me. He strokes his hand over my hair and I can hear him say in a low, gentle voice: "I bless you, my precious one." For a single moment the two of us are all alone.
The other kids go to him too, some playful, others reserved like I. He jokes: "What is the difference between a camel and a gnat? We yell all kinds of answers, each trying to shout louder that the other. "Nobb," says Jesus, "a camel is..." Everyone bursts out laughing so the voice of Jesus gets caught in a children's choir of joy. The walls crumble. Everyone feels comfortable with Jesus. Now all want him to place his hand upon their head.
A fortnight after I got the shoes of gold a new thought emerged. "I don't want to grow up. I want to know this child for the rest of my life."
Our child inside can only come to Jesus if we affirm its right to exist. This child may be hurt and neglected. It cannot develop without nurture. We must take care of it and let it grow in the safe and tender presence of Jesus. I sometimes say to my younger son: "You'll grow old if you loose the game inside of you." You see, he doesn't want to grow up. He is realistic though and says: "But I will anyhow." But he finds it comforting that he doesn't have to stop playing.
There's another and even more precious trait of the child that must not be forgotten. It's the untamed energy and vitality, which appears in our ability to marvel and be surprised. That's the child in us who can say, "Wow...", with a twinkle in the eye.
This child should not go away when it matures because Jesus says to us: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
Copyright © November, 2001 Ólöf I. Davíðsdóttir