One of my mentors Howard Thurman quotes the following mother’s prayer in one of his books:
Each night my bonny, sturdy lad Persists in adding to his, Now I lay me Down to sleep, the earnest wistful plea: “God, make me big.” And I, his mother, with greater need, Do echo in a humbled, contrite heart, “God, make me big.”
God make me big! I love to read and I’ve been reading books for sixty years, and I can chart my life in terms of the books I’ve read – perhaps you can too – as a child I read “Dick and Jane” and books like this one – then later, I read the Hardy Boys – in college and grad school, I read theology books – and now I write books, like this one. What are your favorite books?
When I was a child, it was all about me and my survival in a chaotic family. I was a good child, the peacemaker in the family, responsible for preserving some calm in contrast to my turbulent brother, but I wasn’t always patient. An experiment describes crows waiting five minutes before eating a morsel of food, but as a child I couldn’t wait five seconds for Christmas candy and on road trips, I constantly asked my mom and dad, “When are we getting there? Are we there yet?”
As I grew up, I learned how to wait; I also learned how to share. I learned that other people were as important as me, and later that faith means sacrifice – getting out of your ego to care for your family and then going beyond family, to care for the world and even people I will never meet.
Mr. Rogers says, “there are so many ways to grow…our thoughts and our feelings grow and there’s a lot we can do about them and we can understand them and love them and be glad we’re the way we are. We are much more than on thing…we are more than our hair, skin…we’re even more than our thoughts… wonderful one of a kind.”
You know that Jesus “grew” – he got big in spirit as well as body – the bible says Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God. He was a baby, then a toddler, then in elementary school. Like you, he was curious, learned new things, played with friends, and learned about God.
In today’s scripture, Jesus is twelve years old and he goes to the Temple – the great church in Jerusalem. He’s always loved God, and he wants to know more about God, so he goes to the teachers and priests, the professors and the ministers.
He does something we all should do, whether we are four or ninety-four:
- He asks questions – do you ever ask questions about God? When I was small, I asked a neighbor, “Will your dog go to heaven?” Later I asked, “Did God really cause storms and earthquakes?” I kept on asking, “Can I be a Christian if I don’t understand the Virgin Birth, have trouble believing it, or if I think some parts of the Bible just don’t make sense?”
- Still later, I asked, “Does God love people of other religions? Will they go to heaven too?”
It’s good to ask questions, and questions are part of a living faith – the author Madeleine L’Engle was once asked, “Do you believe in God without any doubts?” She responded, “I believe in God with all my doubts?”
It’s important to let your faith grow along with your knowledge of nature, science, and other countries and their peoples.
Jesus asked, and he also shared. Don’t be afraid to share what you are learning about God and the world. You don’t have to have all the answers to share your faith with another person. We want this church to be a safe place for questions and exploration. God loves questions, because that’s how we grow.
A child I know once stated, “I don’t believe God controls everything. Other people think God controls everything, but I don’t.”
We don’t know everything. That’s why we ask questions, share our insights, and learn from each other. God is always more than we encompass intellectually or spiritually. If you think you know it fully, it isn’t God, as St. Augustine says. Still, we can know enough and trust enough to face life’s challenges, knowing that the baby in the manger reveals that God is with us and will be with us in all of life’s adventures.
Jesus grew – and so can you – whether you’re four or ninety four, God says, “there’s more to you than you can imagine…you have gifts you don’t yet realize…I’m not done with you…I have a dream for you…let us make today a holy adventure and tomorrow a wonderland of love.”