Maybe because my mother was a biologist by training and a Jr. High science teacher and curriculum writer by vocation, that I was brought up to be far more excited by the odd than the “normal.” There is a simple reason for that; when things go as expected you only confirm what you already know, but when things go unexpectedly, a whole new world of discovery opens up to you. Though it often means a lot more work, that new discovery can be life-changing.
Because my college, Millikin University, was located in the same town as ADM’s (Archer Daniels Midland) headquarters are, we would often have interaction with their researchers; in fact, they subsidized a good portion of Millikin’s new, well, I guess not-so-new now, sciences building. I remember in one of my classes a researcher showed us the magical soybean, as he put it, and started to explain how researchers have studied and continued to find new possibilities for it from food to fuel and even building materials. Most of us already knew that, but what he said next was really the interesting thing, “While the Soybean can be made into all of these things and now many are researching more, it took someone with the vision and humility to try it, fail, but continue to explore.”
I always thought this was interesting; the progression of science was in the humility of discovery. If you think about it, most of the learning in life does not happen when we are fighting for the top, but when we are humbled in our situation.
The story this week is a wonderful story of humiliation! Most of us can picture the situation: a group of guys walking down the road arguing over who is the best. Hit any bar in America this weekend and you’ll probably see that played out in some fashion. But here is the humiliation; Jesus reaches for the child. Even in society today, if adults are speaking and the leader reaches for a child there is a moment of “why even?” humiliation. At that time in history it was even more so as children really were not valued highly.
Moreover, the point had to be made on terms of vulnerability. A child is highly vulnerable. No matter what time in history, a child has to rely on others for survival, which makes them vulnerable. But in their vulnerability they have the opportunity to learn and grow. Because they do not have the background or the skills, they are often forced into a situation that they know nothing about and have to tinker around to figure out how it works.
Just think, everyone knows a story of a child who decided they needed to know how something worked so they dismantled that expensive electrical device. They are not being naughty, they are exploring, and in that exploration they are able to learn and grow. It is not easy being a kid, nor is it supposed to be, but it is a time where we are encouraged to explore, grow, and learn.
Unfortunately, as adults, that often stops. Instead of being open to what the world has before us, we are often closed to the wonders and challenges. As we fight to prove who is best, we often are not aware of everything around us. When it comes to faith, so many are sure their answer is the best they can’t see where God is calling them to be and they are not willing to be humble in order to let God in.
So when we think of faith we need to do so like a child. If that is too hard, maybe we need to approach faith like a good scientist with an open mind and willingness to explore. Mostly we need to be able to humble ourselves, recognizing that what we think we know, we may not, but we can learn and grow!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen