I was sent these fragments from a larger poem by Nigel Forde called “Children In The Way.” They had struck a chord with the person who sent them, and they certainly connected with my work as a Youth and Children’s Pastor.
What is a Child? It’s worthwhile being sure,
For their outlook – not ours – he called mature
Describe a child then. Simple? Passive? Gentle?
A widespread view. But not one that is parental!
Yes partly true but mostly sentimental.
Those who’ve had children know they’re pioneers
Timeless seekers. Hungry for ideas.
Questioners, ready to learn and solve and find.
Committed, energetic, quick of mind.
They trust, they love, but don’t use love or trust
As an excuse to sit, grow dull and rust
When did you last ask, “Why?” and want to know?
Or choose a new discipline to undergo?
Or argue with fresh knowledge as your end
Rather than just a prejudice to defend?
How much do you do because others do it,
And how much having honestly thought through it?
Oh, what we could learn from children if we would,
Safe in our dull, trite, four-square adulthood!
If their imaginations are more clear
Than ours, is it not possible they hear
More clearly too? Are spiritually quicker
Than many a teacher, youth leader or vicar?
May they not hear the voice of God and shout it
While we get on quite nicely, thanks, without it?
They may not have the knowledge we possess,
So the Holy Spirit has to shift much less
In terms of intellectual debris
Than perhaps he might with you. Or you. Or me.
I was struck by the play on words in the title of the poem: do we see children as being ‘in the way” in church? Something to be pushed to the side while adults do the real business of church? Or are they “in the Way” alongside us as we journey as pilgrims and disciples in the Way of Jesus. Can they not hear from God as well as we can, if not sometimes better, and can we not hear from them about God?