When I was a little girl, my elementary school covered grades K-6. We didn’t switch classes in elementary school, even if we were in sixth grade. We had a sixth- grade teacher, Mrs. Erskine, who at some point in her life had dabbled in theater, acting and music. Mrs. Erskine was in charge of the school-wide performances we put on twice each year. The first was always in December and was a play with Christmas Carols at Christmastime. We actually were allowed to perform Christian Christmas songs all the way up until I was in sixth grade - and then they were allowed no more. That didn’t really matter much to me, because I didn’t understand all the politics behind it and we still sang a lot of other songs - and my community must not have minded too much either, because Mrs. Erskine’s favorite Christian Christmas songs were still in the program. I just remember hearing the moms talking about how sad it was and where was the world headed.
Mrs. Erskine also led us through a spring performance each year. One year we did a scripted program written for schools called “Free to Be - You and Me”. There were a ton of skits and songs that went with that and the Free to Be music was the only music we used that year. But every other year - no matter what the theme was - and the themes did change - we performed songs that fit the theme of the program along with a selection of John Denver songs. Yes, John Denver. Mrs. Erskine was crazy about John Denver - and I would have hardly known who he was if not for her. Yesterday I caught a brief snippet of “Rocky Mountain High” on the radio and all those songs started running through my head. Nobody in my family was ever a John Denver fan that I know of, but we could sing “Grandma’s Featherbed”, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, and “Take Me Home Country Roads” with the best of them. It’s funny now that I think about it - our eclectic collection of K-6 grade Southern California San Gabriel Valley kids belting out “Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains - Shenandoah River - country roads, take me home, to the place I belong West Virginia, mountain momma - take me home, country roads.”
I seriously had no clue what a country road was and never once did I think about the fact I was singing about going home to West Virginia. That’s the beauty of being a child. I wasn’t concerned about what kind of music I was singing. It didn’t matter if it was country or rap or rock and roll - I just liked being part of the program and singing my heart out. I wasn’t even aware was singing about a state located on the complete opposite side of the United States I resided in. Mrs. Erskine took those programs seriously and so did we. We practiced every day for weeks to prepare and I can imagine those programs took their toll on her, but she never lightened up on us and she never seemed to get tired.
We were in it wholeheartedly because we were kids and kids jump in. Mrs. Erskine was in it wholeheartedly because theater and John Denver were her two great passions in life. I’m convinced those programs were pretty exceptional because children approach life with abandon and free of judgment and therefore can find great joy in places teens and adults often only see as burdensome or silly even. And adults who have passion can be pretty influential. With the right leader, I think kids can accomplish almost anything. We sell them short a lot of times. Jesus didn’t, though. At one point, He brought a child to the middle of the room and told the adults gathered around they would have a hard time entering the Kingdom of Heaven if they did not become like the little child.
Jesus was talking about having faith like children do. I worked with kids in Awana for well over twenty years. They seemed to have no problem accepting God’s promises, and they often prayed for big things which would leave the adults in the room smiling knowingly sometimes. We smiled because we knew the children didn’t understand the enormity of what they were asking. Thank God they didn't. I heard a deaf child pray for hearing once. I remember children asking God for a house because their family didn't have anywhere to live. They asked Him to heal the sick and reach the lost. And they never qualified their prayers with, “If it is Your will, God.”
Don’t get me wrong, I understand sometimes we are not praying with God’s will in mind, but I know if I am honest with myself usually when I add, “If it is Your will, God,” that is to give myself an out in case God doesn’t do what I’m asking Him to do - so in other words, doubt is creeping in. But I have learned a lot from kids and when I pray as children pray, I simply pray and trust He will answer. They don’t look for excuses for God, they just trust and ask openly and honestly, because that is what the Bible tells us to do. I also have to say I cannot recall a single time I heard a child EVER pray for their family to win the lotto or to become rich and famous. I had children ask me to pray they would be safe driving to Disneyworld, but never did I once have one ask me to pray God would give them a trip to Disneyworld. Even the poorest children did not ask for things like that from God.
We adults can learn a lot from children, because children will stand up in front of a crowded room and sing John Denver songs like they are the greatest music ever written. They give it their all and do their best because that is what kids do. At least until some adult teaches them differently. Adults can have passion and influence. If we combine our passion and influence with child-like faith - what can't we do? I have spent a large part of my life playing it safe and pleasing the crowd - of adults. I am learning now and working hard to pray with the abandon and expectation of a child for the things I am passionate about. And God is doing things and moving mountains only He can move.
“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Serious words.