Yesterday at services we had the Blessing of the Little Children. Although the child I expected to see was not able to attend because of teething issues, there was an adorable child that received a blessing, so our congregation was not entirely unproductive in fulfilling the dominion mandate as has been the case in the past . In listening to the prayer that was uttered over the child, as well as the general commentary from the ministry around about our lack of childbearing as a whole, I felt particularly defensive and gloomy. Given that such feelings tend to provoke my writing, I feel it necessary to comment on the emotional response one has to days like yesterday where there is a strong focus on children and their well-being and safety in light of our living in a dangerous world . Be forewarned that my thoughts and reflections are, as might be expected, somewhat ambivalent and complicated.
Whenever I read Genesis 1:26-28 or hear comments about there needing to be more children around in church for the future, I feel a bit of a personal sting. Am I not fulfilling some kind of responsibility for passing on my beliefs and practices to the next generation because I am so painfully inept at courtship and because I have such difficult issues with finding a wife and starting a family? Are such comments being directed at me personally or are they a larger message that simply wishes families were a bigger priority and that there were happier marriages and growth in numbers and so on. If it is merely a matter of my being somewhat prickly and overly sensitive about such matters, that would be fairly easy to admit and relate to, but if it actually was something directed at me, then I would happily submit to whoever wishes to criticize me for such failures ought to be aware that no one is more painfully aware of my failures in that area than I am myself, and no one heartily wishes for a happy family life for myself more than I do, at least judging by works and fruits and actions so far.
What is about to follow might appear to be a bit of a digression at first, but it is related to the overall tenor of the day. The sermon today dealt with faith and works, namely the actions that follow genuine faith, and I was struck by its relevance to a variety of concerns and issues, as well as to the blessings that were uttered over the head of the adorable little child during services. James comments in his discussion on the relationship between faith and works that we see the faith of others by their works. We see the trust that others have based on their actions, and we trust others based on their own actions. I recently read a rather pointed book about the Jews’ rejection of Jesus Christ , and a big aspect of the book was that if God wanted the Jews to believe in Jesus then Jesus would act in certain obvious ways, like saving the Jews from trouble. The implication was that the Jews were ready to believe when Jesus proved Himself. To be sure, there are occasions where we want others to prove their love or their faith or their trust in actions, and plenty of occasions where other people demand that we prove our own through our own actions. All too often, though, we are making demands without being willing or able to fulfill those demands in a reciprocal fashion.
I listened as thoughtful prayers were blessed over the head of the little child in services yesterday. Many of those prayers were about her safety in the face of our world and its dangers. It is not possible for me to listen to prayers about the safety of small children without reflecting on the own total absence of that safety in my own life. Parents have good reason to feel predation against their own children, even if the way they seek to protect their children can be counterproductive, but unfortunately, the worst threat to the safety of children is often the parents themselves, and where it is not the parents it is often other family members next of all. All too often, when we seek to pray for the well-being of children, we may not be aware of the fact that we are asking God to protect them from us, and He may or may not answer that prayer. God certainly did not answer prayers directed to my own safety as a child, certainly, although God has His own purposes and His own reasons for so doing. Who knows what He has planned for particular children, or whether or not He will choose to tell us or anyone of those plans.
Another poignant comment was directed to God setting his angels about the child. There are some scriptures that suggest a view that people have angels directed to them either on occasion, as was the case with Daniel with regards to an answer for his prayer for insight about a God-given dream, or on a regular basis, as was the case with the supposed angel of Peter that marked his release from prison where he faced death from his efforts to preach the Gospel in Jerusalem. If we all have our own guardian angels, though, so to speak, what is life like for those angels? Do they ever get tired of protecting us from our own folly, or do they mourn when God decides that we should not be protected either from some evil or from the repercussions of our own blunders? If I had angels placed about me during the time of my early childhood, without question they would be deeply sad angels unless God did some serious explaining to them. It could hardly be otherwise, after all. Hopefully the children blessed this past Sabbath are far more fortunate in having the prayers said over them answered.
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