When three-year-old Cooper asked about the trays with bread and juice being passed around in “big church,” his mother, Hallie Rainwater, tried to explain as much as she could in terms he might understand. She shared that we take it to remember God and Jesus and everything they’ve done for us, the love we all have.
That night at bedtime he said, “Mom, if we put our hand over our heart like this, will we remember God and Jesus?” She said she thought that was a very nice idea and that they should try that. So they put their hands over their hearts and he said, “Oh, I wish I could remember God and Jesus.” Then he said, “Maybe next time I go to big church I can eat that little white thing and drink that juice – that will help me remember them.”
When I talked to his mother later she said that it was if he was trying to remember God and Jesus as those he used to know but couldn’t any more.
“You must become like a child to enter the Kingdom of God, ” said Jesus. I know he was right. For children – close to the origins of the spirit – it is like remembering something they already know. And that, I think, is a key to spiritual formation. It is not that we, family and church, are sharing something that is foreign to our little ones. No, it is simply reacquainting them with something already there. And they can reacquaint us. The Biblical stories remind everyone, of all ages, who have open hearts.
It is silly to believe that young children can’t “get” the liturgy of the church, its storytelling, and rituals that bridge head and heart. They get them on their own level more easily and faster than we entrenched adults do. Our job as mentors and trusted guides is to keep them close to the action, engage in faithful and loving conversations, and allow the flower to bloom.
Thank you, Cooper. Next time I take communion my hand is going over my heart. I hope I can remember, too.