Nicole and I have been a part of Joshua Station since May of 2009 and our primary experience has been with the kids. It only took a few hours for our door to receive its first knock from two rowdy boys looking to score some candy. It took a few days for the teenagers to grace us with their presence, but they quickly became a dominant part of our lives in this crazy and beautiful community.
The Gospels give us a few examples of Jesus becoming angry. One of those examples occurs when people start taking their children to Jesus so that He could bless them. The disciples start rebuking the people, probably thinking about how Jesus had much more important people to spend His time with. Jesus sees this happening and that vein in His neck begins to become visible. “He was indignant…” He goes on to make the disorienting proclamation that the Kingdom of God belongs to children! He even goes a step further and says that the disciples will never enter into that Kingdom if they don’t accept it in the same way that the children do!
It was about a year after we moved here that we first encountered what I have seen multiple times since. Sam, a Joshua Station teenager, had invited us to join him at a school event. We got to meet some of Sam’s closest friends and mentors. They knew nearly everything about him…except the huge fact that he was homeless. It quickly became apparent to Nicole and me that Sam carried deep shame around his situation and worked very hard to hide it from as many people as possible.
This sense of shame is something I began to see over and over in our teens. They usually can’t wait to move out. That stands in stark contrast to the younger kids. Joshua Station quickly becomes their home and moving out of this community is often something that causes a great deal of anxiety and sadness. Our teenagers are far more indoctrinated into the society constructed by adult egos. They are far more aware that poverty is something that is seen through a mostly judgmental lens. This illusion of awareness often prevents them from truly living—from experiencing the life laid out before them.
Perhaps the disciples were allowing their egos to drive them to act so crudely toward the children trying to get to Jesus. They had their understanding of who was important and who was not. The problem is that this understanding was born out of their social upbringing, which Jesus constantly seems to loosen their grip of—in this case through angry rebuke. Perhaps life actually is meant to be experienced and not won. Perhaps the kids around us do have something significant to teach us—something we once knew without knowing that we knew it. Perhaps the Kingdom of God is a reality that values participation above competition. Perhaps the only way we can see that reality is by allowing children to have a prominent place in our spirituality. If we make that a priority, perhaps we can remember what they have not yet forgotten.
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