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Many are familiar with the story in the Gospels where people brought little children to Jesus to have him touch them, and the disciples rebuked those who brought the little tykes (Matthew 19:13, Mark 10:13, Luke 18:15). The reason the people, probably many of them parents, were bringing the children to Jesus was because our Lord's touch was noteworthy. To be blessed and prayed for by a man of God was highly significant. But Jesus' touch healed people. What is implied is that Jesus would touch and pray for the children, asking God to bless them. At first glance the disciples seem callous as they try to shoo the people away.

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I can relate to the disciples. I often feel life is too busy and too complicated to take time for distractions. Some biblical scholars suggest that the disciples were actually being thoughtful, trying to protect Jesus. (I wish people would protect me from the onslaught of life's interruptions!!) Lessons we learn in this story from Jesus are that people, no matter how small and insignificant, are important. Another lesson is not to fret too much about distractions as an interruption may be the very thing God wants us to do.


I recently began working as a staff nurse again and have come to realize that much of what I do is deal with interruptions. I've discovered how easy it is to get frustrated and miss opportunities for a "divine distraction." I'm praying to be open to what God is doing, to discern between distractions and divine encounters. I've also realized that my patients who seem to be "the least of these" often are the ones God calls me to stop and touch, the ones he wants to touch.


But a more careful look at the story of the "shooed off children" reveals a deeper truth, and a harder lesson to embrace. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to "such as these." When asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (a question we like to ask too, i.e., what's the pecking order, who's #1?), Jesus called a little child to stand among the group of followers. Then he said that unless we change and become like little children, we'll never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-4).


What does it mean to be like a little child? Was Jesus talking about innocence or being teachable? Although those are good things, being like a little child isn't appealing to me. Little kids can be adorable but also entirely egocentric; humble yet demanding. They are messy and foolish, requiring constant supervision and lots of guidance and correction.


Jesus offered a little child as the ideal candidate for his kingdom and the model for greatness because young children are at the bottom of the pecking order. They are subject to everyone else, under the authority of grown-ups, dependent for most all their needs, powerless, and lost without direction and guidance. In contrast to conventional ideas of status and importance, Jesus was saying people who are willing to accept the lowest rank, to be the least prominent and realize they need help and authority over them-those are the people he can work with. The kingdom of God is for those who are prepared to receive whatever he has for them in a humble and receptive frame of mind, just like a little child.


This little child attitude is a revolutionary concept. Preferring everyone else to be more important than I am doesn't come naturally. I want to be first, to be served rather than to serve (Mark 10:45). I find it hard to think about the interests of others much less look out for them (Philippians 2). I value independence and don't want to be dependent upon anyone. I want to be strong, capable, self-sufficient. I am not drawn to being a lowly little child.


In this issue of JCN as we reflect on nursing care of children, I pray we come to better understand and embrace our Lord's mysterious yet profound call to be like little children.