Sunday, October 6, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes...

On Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at a special thanksgiving service for the staff of the Fiji National Provident Fund. While my role was to provide spiritual nourishment to the staff and their families and pray for the first three FNPF staff to be deployed to the Fund's subsidiary in Papua New Guinea, in all honesty the highlight of the service for me was the musical offerings presented by staff and especially by their children.

As I listened to the impromptu children's choir sing "Love makes the world go round," I couldn't help but be moved and inspired. it wasn't just the lyrics of the song or the cuteness factor of the children; it was the  innocent belief in the words they were singing. By innocent I am not implying that their literal belief in the transformative power of love, kindness and goodness when shared with the other, is naive. What often strikes me is that how they choose to believe that this is possible despite the many instances they may witness or indeed experience that to the contrary.

Being in a religious gathering,  I couldn't hep but reflect on the words uttered by Jesus nearly two thousand years ago, "Who ever wants to enter the Kingdom of God must do so like a little child," and said that to "those such as them belong the Kingdom of God."

Antonia Bhagwan, Angelica Roadhouse and Isabel Dayal of class 302
 of Holy Trinity Anglican School prepare for their field trip.
Yesterday (Tuesday) I spent the day with my daughter as her class (302, Holy Trinity Anglican School) went on a field trip so that the class four, six and eight students, sitting for their national LANA examinations could have some relative peace and quiet. The trip included visits to Koronivia and Nadurulolo Agricultural, Plant and Freshwater Fish research stations and Nausori Airport. The children and the teachers, parents and guardians had a great adventure and learning experience at places we have often passed or bypassed on our way to and from Nausori and travelling along the King's Road.

Having spent the greater part of the last two years abroad with my nose buried in theology books and academia; I have been paying my dinau (debt) to my family in terms of quality time and duties. In fact, when I suggested that this week could be my wife's turn for making breakfast and lumch for the children, she reminded me that after being away for so long, it was not just my week on duty, it was my year!

I have begun to make up for my time away, especially from the children, by allocating special one on one time with them. Apart from playing with them and helping them with their homework, this "one on one" time is to listen to what their issues and concerns are about school, home, and life in general. While only time wil tell if I am able to maintain this commitment, it has been an amazing time of reconnecting.

Often we adults are so concerned with speaking to and directing our children or too busy maling them into mini models of ourselves that we neglect to listen to their voices until they breakdown in tears or tantrum. Sometimes, convinced tht children should be seen and not heard, we miss simple but profound truths, uttered by those unencumbered by fears of being politically correct or socially acceptable.

The classic example of this is the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, by Hans Christian  Anderson.

When the two con men presented the"imaginary" and thus invisible clothes to the fashionista king,  the Emperor did not see any colors and could not feel any cloth between his fingers. The two scoundrels draped the new clothes on him and then held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed but since none of his bystanders were, he felt relieved.      "Yes, this is a beautiful suit and it looks very good on me," the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. "You've done a fine job."      "Your Majesty," the prime minister said, "we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary fabric and they are anxious to see you in your new suit."

The Emperor was doubtful showing himself naked to the people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.      "All right," he said. "I will grant the people this privilege." He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.      Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the Emperor's new clothes. They're beautiful!"      "What a marvellous train!"      "And the colors! The colors of that beautiful fabric! I have never seen anything like it in my life!" They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothes, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.     

A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.      "The Emperor is naked," he said.      "Fool!" his father reprimanded, running after him. "Don't talk nonsense!" He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:      "The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!"     

Out of the mouths of babes indeed.

"Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity"

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