Kara Oliver shares how we can strengthen and empower each child to live as a beloved child of God.
“You are my son the Beloved, and with you I am well-pleased.”
These words spoken to Jesus at his baptism may be the most important words uttered to Jesus, and to any child since then. He heard these words before he was tempted, before he began his ministry, before he healed anyone. Even when he was hungry, tired, and vulnerable, Jesus knew he was loved. Period. That Love gave him strength to persevere. To advocate. To heal. To teach. To share the same message of Love in word and action.
That same unconditional love is the greatest gift we can offer to any child we meet. Before he draws his first stick figure or writes his name. Before she kicks her first soccer ball. Before he gets his first grades. Before she picks up an instrument. Our children should know they are loved. Period. They do not have to do anything to deserve it.
And the truth of that Love can allow our children to resist the temptations of bullying, of judging another when they enter the wilderness of the playground and the world of metrics and testing. Even when their self-esteem wavers, when they don’t live up to their own standards, when the system is stacked against them. They can be messengers of the same Love in word and action.
Jesus’ love and compassion was such that parents longed for their children to be in his presence. “One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them.” (Matthew 19: 13, CEB) The Contemporary English Bible says the disciples “shooed them off.” But Jesus intervened. I imagine he called the children to him, laid hands on them as he whispered to each one, “You are God’s child, Beloved. And with you I am well-pleased.”
What if each child who left his presence that day went out into the world, to become a tax collector who heard these words echoing in his soul when he chose not to tax more than his fair share? Or a seller of purple cloth who chose to donate the most beautiful cloth to her synagogue when she remembered Jesus’ hand on her head? Or a mother who whispered those same words of love each night to her own children as they fell asleep at her breast?
Who are the vulnerable children who need to know they are Beloved? Are they children in the foster care system, street children in Kamina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, immigrant children living in the shadows? Are they students not reading at grade level? Are they those who have been abused and hate their own bodies?
Our greatest act of love is to see children –their challenges, their potential, their need, and their capacity. To love – by advocating against the school to prison pipeline; by teaching our children how to stand in between bullies and their victims; by empowering instead of blaming.
Wherever you find yourself in the presence of children, offer the prayer, words, and touch of blessing. To the fidgeting child in the grocery story line, let your eyes say, “You are Beloved.” As you watch the horrors of children caught in natural disasters or the disasters of war and forced emigration, take political and compassionate action because you believe in their belovedness. At your local church or community center, get down on eye level to praise and affirm each child for their talents and gifts. In your home, see your own child as a gift, Beloved simply because she is a child of God.
You, Reader, are a Beloved child of God. With you God is well-pleased. Let that knowledge drive you into the Wilderness where the Love that lives inside you is most needed.