They come in like always that first day, some wild, loud, and bold, some crying, clinging, and unsure. They come and come, and I stand there on the stage and watch them and feel the tiredness in my bones and think, “It’s already been so much work, and the week is just beginning.” They just keep coming, and the level of laughter, shouting, crying, and screaming just keeps rising. Some of the adults look like they might abandon ship. I take a deep breath.
And then we start the music.
This is what I love. This is where their joy kicks in, their endless, boundless joy that pushes them to sing at the top of their lungs and spin around and wave their hands in the air. I always think, “Why don’t the rest of us sing like that?” This week, we do. This is worship, all this joy rising, and it works like magic, pulling us all in.
We sing and sing, we play and create and eat and laugh, and I’m blown away by the people in this place who serve. This is church. This is what I love.
They come in today, day four, still filled up with all that joy. Only today is different. Now we know these kids. We have heard their pain, seen the darkness some of them live in, listened to their questions. Their struggles are remarkably like our own. When the room gets dark, we take out our glow sticks and hold them high, like flares. We call out to Jesus, “Come rescue us! We need you. We are shipwrecked. We are lost.” I see their faces. They understand this only too well.
We play the music and the kids surge forward and I listen, one by one, as they talk. “I can’t stop telling lies. I don’t want to tell lies anymore.” “My sisters are so mean to me. What do I do?” And one kid, the bouncy blonde-haired boy who worships with abandon, says, “But why did Jesus want to die?”
He didn’t want to die. He knew what it would cost. But he did want you. He wanted you more than his life. And He knew the only way to have you was to die.He smiles, face full of wonder, tucks his head into my shoulder.
And then she sits next to me, shy, hesitant. The ten-year old girl surviving such brokenness. The girl who has only known rejection from the one who should have been her protector. “I just want to know Jesus,” she whispers.
We talk about how tough things are and her face clouds, full of pain. And then we pray. I hear her tell Jesus how much she needs Him, ask Him to save her and be her best friend. I watch the joy wash over her face, and I look at the light in her eyes, and nothing else matters but this.
This. This is what I love.
“Let the little children come to Me,” He said, “because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
No wonder Jesus wanted them around. This is church.
The kids are waving their flares around again, jumping around and singing, and I think again how much they understand that we forget. That in the middle of being shipwrecked, you can sing. You can worship. You can patch your tattered sail of faith with God sightings, and you can trust in His rescue.