Azaleas & Giggles: How Children Heal the Soul
One Sunday, before driving home from church, my then 3-year-old daughter and I walked past the car and across the park toward azalea bushes that were bursting with blooms. As we walked through the grass, with her little hand in mine, she chattered about anything that popped into her mind or her view. With each step I was aware of pressure lifting off my shoulders. My breath came easily, and my heart felt light. I felt like a different person, without even realizing how much stress I must have been feeling until my little one and I took that short walk toward the azaleas.
Not long ago, I suffered the only panic attack I’ve ever had. I was driving to check on a loved one in the hospital, overwhelmed with the care and concerns of family, when I knew I physically couldn’t keep driving. I went straight to my daughter’s house, where she put me on her bed to rest and let my grandchildren come in to snuggle. The snuggles and giggles were a tonic unlike anything that can be prescribed by a doctor.
I absolutely believe there is healing in the presence of children. Perhaps I say this because I’m a children’s ministry director, but clearly I have experienced it in my life. I feel it when I take my “sabbath” to be with my grandchildren. I see it in the faces of the congregation watching the children when they join me on the steps of the chancel. There is something in the unfiltered joy, exuberance, even in the frustration of a child, that brings perspective to the moment.
In Matthew 18:3-4 Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The example of entering the kingdom of heaven is right in front of us… by being like a child. Children are trusting and humble. They have no preconceived notions and possess a great capacity for faith. To become like a child and be humble is not encouraged in our competitive society, yet that is what Jesus calls us to do.
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “The soul is healed by being with children.” I wholeheartedly recommend spending time with children. Volunteer in a local school, teach Sunday school, play outside with your children or grandchildren. When we spend time with little ones they show us how we need to intentionally let go of the burdens of our lives and view God’s world with accepting eyes. The discipline of approaching God with the heart of a child can soothe our soul and draw us closer to our Lord.
Kathy McCarron is Director of Children and Family Ministries for NorthPark Presbyterian Church. She is a graduate of Trinity University and is a PCUSA Certified Christian Educator. Kathy and her husband, Mike, have three adult children and three grandchildren.