The Child in the Midst

And he came to Capernaum: and, being in the house, he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them; and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

— Mark 9:33-37

Better pleasing to God, it needs little daring to say, is the audacity of Job, who, rushing into his presence, and flinging the door of his presence-chamber to the wall, like a troubled, perhaps angry, but yet faithful child, calls aloud in the ear of him whose perfect Fatherhood he has yet to learn, “Am I a sea or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?”

Let us dare, then, to climb the height of divine truth to which this utterance of our Lord would lead us. Does it not lead us up hither; that the devotion of God to his creatures is perfect? That he does not think about himself but about them? That he wants nothing for himself, but finds his blessedness in the outgoing of blessedness.

Ah! It is a terrible—shall it be a lonely glory this? We will draw near with our human response, our abandonment of self in the faith of Jesus. He gives himself to us—shall not we give ourselves to him? Shall we not give ourselves to each other whom he loves?

For when is the child the ideal child in our eyes and to our hearts? Is it not when, with gentle hand, he takes his father by the beard, and turns that father’s face up to his brothers and sisters to kiss? When even the lovely selfishness of love-seeking has vanished, and the heart is absorbed in loving?

Commentary

Keeping Near The Heart of God
by Stephen Carney

          It seems strange to me that knowing the eternal, omnipresence of God that men anywhere should seek to hide, deny, or run from that Presence.  But of course we are often so childish about sin and, at the same time, so distrustful of our good, good, Father that we project our childish behaviors upon him. We, sometimes, believe God to be as petty and harsh as we are.   Therefore, we make sin bigger than God and often see ourselves as so awful, that we wonder: how could he accept us, let alone love us?  And yet, he is the kindest, gentlest, and most loving Father, and he awaits for his children to come running to him.  This is what Job did.  As MacDonald points outs he came “rushing into his presence and, flinging the door of his presence-chamber to the wall,..”  This is what makes Job such an example of faith.  He believes that God will love and accept him no matter what.  He wants the Father more than anything else, and that is what lies at the heart of all true faith.  It longs for the Unseen Father and seeks him until it finds him, till his Presence becomes the substance of what we have hoped for and the evidence of what we have not seen.  We know God exists by the continual abiding in His Presence, by experiencing his revelation of truth and his tenderness of love. 

          Once this becomes our experience, we should be calling all the rest of his children to come and sit upon their Father's knee, that they too might experience the joy of God's unbreakable love.  Once we discover how loved we are, there remains no longer any need to be selfish.  People are only selfish, because they do not feel loved.  It is that missing of true eternal love that makes them long to fill that void by taking from others.  Separation from the Father's heart makes any of us poor and miserable creatures.  But His nearness burns that selfishness away and makes us forget ourselves as we glimpse into his eyes.  There we behold the wonder and majesty of wisdom, truth and love.  We, sitting upon his knee will find him wiping every tear from our eyes.  Now, as well as then.

          MacDonald translated a poem of Novalis that has become one of my favorites and I think it fits here:

If I him but have,
   If he be but mine,
If my heart, hence to the grave,
   Ne'er forgets his love divine-
Know I nought of sadness,
Feel I nought but worship, love, and gladness.

If I him but have,
   Pleased from all I part;
Follow, on my pilgrim staff,
   None but him, but honest heart,
Leave the rest, nought saying,
On broad, bright, and crowded highways straying.

If I him but have,
   Glad to sleep I sink;
From his heart the flood he gave
   Shall to mine be food and drink;
And, with sweet compelling,
Mine shall soften, deep throughout it welling.

If I him but have,
   Mine the world I hail;
Happy, like a cherub grave
   Holding back the Virgin's veil:
I, deep sunk in gazing,
Hear no mare the Earth or its poor praising.

Where I have but him
   Is my fatherland;
Every gift a precious gem
   Come to me from his own hand!
rothers long deplored,
o, in his disciples, all restored!