Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just as I am

I experienced a “special blessing” after the completion of my Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Michael’s Hospital. The “special blessing” was the opportunity for me to speak at my Church’s children’s retreat and lead a team from my church on a mission trip to Cape Croker, a native reserve which involved a VBS for the kids.

I call it a “special blessing” intentionally.

I love teaching kids about God’s love and grace. But, ministering to kids has not always been fun and easy for me. I have done lot of ministry around kids in the past. I was a leader in a kids camp in 2002 in Toronto, did programs with the kids in London, England 2002 and 2003, spoke in children’s services in Muscat, Oman for nearly two months in 2000 and was involved with children’s’ ministry occasionally in India prior to 2000.

When I started engaging in ministry with kids, it didn’t take me long to come to the awareness that kids intimidated me. Yes, you have heard me right – they intimidated me. My involvements with kids have always been genuine, but I struggled with anxiety of not knowing what to expect from them, fear of being disliked by them and feelings of inadequacy to impact them.

I found their honesty to be brutal at times, their inability to pay attention for more than a minute [It’s a generalization, but it was true at least in my past experiences] and their unpredictability and hyper activeness frustrated me and stretched me. I figured my ‘time outs’ from their presence were more than my time with them.

As I look back, things have dramatically changed. What happened to all the discomfort I had had around kids? What happened to the anxiety, fear and feelings of inadequacy? When did things change? How did I become comfortable around kids again?

As I reflected on it, I was reminded of how much Jesus loves children and was protective of them. He even says that we must become childlike in our faith. Jesus’ special love for the children and his interaction with them has taught me a lot. As a result, the last few years I have learnt to look at children from a different perspective. I not only minister God’s grace and love to the kids; but they also minister God’s love and grace to me and bless me in a special way. Let me explain.

Being around kids has been a tremendous blessing to me. They have taught me a lot and enriched my own relationship with Jesus. Their innocence and transparency in expressing their feelings have challenged me to get real with God and others.

Few years ago, I realized that somewhere down the line I had allowed my prayers to become sophisticated. My conversat ions with God were well rehearsed and had become very formal and stale. They lacked the rawness.I had been coming before God “as someone I wanted to be” but not “just as I was.”

When kids are brutally honest, they teach me to be honest with my own feelings with God. In other words, they teach me to be real in my relationship with God. Well, for most of us who grew up in church we have the excuse that God knows everything and we don’t have to verbalize everything to him.

In any given relationship if there is no raw talk, that is being transparent and verbalizing the feelings for what they are instead of what they should be, the relationship will be affected due to lack of authenticity.

I have learnt that being raw and real before God has strengthened my faith in God and has allowed me not to be superficial and hypocritical, but to be real. Now, I shout when i feel like shouting in God's presence, I dance, I sing, I cry, I express my joy, peace and also my fear, loneliness, frustration, anger and sadness. I come to Him "just as I am." This has helped me in my own emotional, spiritual and physical healing and growth.

Today, I can boldly say that kids do not intimidate me. I love them. They invite me into a deeper relationship with God.I take every opportunity I get to minister God’s grace and love to them very seriously. But, it doesn’t end there. I also take time to listen to what they have to teach me. Every time it’s something new or a reminder of what I have forgotten.

I love learning from the kids. May I always be open to what they have to teach me about God’s grace and love. May I always be "raw" and "real" before God trusting him with all my feelings.

May I always come before God "Just as I am."

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