For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulder Isaiah 9
Alright...so pause your inner Handel's Messiah soundtrack that started to play the moment you read the above verse. And for a moment...don't rush across the bridge that connects Isaiah to Jesus... because chances are this passage wasn't about Jesus and our Jewish brothers and sisters certainly don't read Isaiah 9 with that connection. And for a moment just sit in the paradox of this verse.
A child born...authority rests upon his shoulders.
A infant - vulnerable and yet powerful.
Authority given not because of might or knowledge or some fancy framed degree hanging on the wall, but by virtue of the fact that the one before us is blessed by God.
That is NOT how the world works. We don't let children vote or ask them to run companies...we still make jokes about twenty-somethings who start tech business still being "babies" - which shows our generational bias and agism. We tell children what to do, where to go, how to act, and what to believe, we don't give them keys and then sit in the passenger seat! (See last post about teaching my son to drive). Reminds me of Eugene Peterson's quote that "Telling people to go and read the Bible today is like giving the keys to a car to a child and saying, 'Drive it!'" Or C.S. Lewis who said, "The Bible is an adult book written for adults."
These ideas and insights in the tiny words on razor thin pages will turn our world upside down! Giving a child authority! We can talk all we want about children being our future hope, but we mean down the road...when we are good and ready to let them be in charge...which we will tell them when that is...probably not for some time though. Or when people say that our children and youth, who are in church and have a voice today...are our future hope rather than our present day voice we need. After all, we had to wait to get the power we presently have, we had to sit at the kids card-table growing up with the plastic plates and our cousin who wanted us to see milk squirt out his nose, we had to pay our dues...turn around is just how the world works.
Not according to Isaiah. (Or by the way, to Jesus who is constantly telling parables about God's upside down world...but remember this passage might not be about Jesus).
Now I get it. You hear stories about parents today putting their children first running their kids everywhere at their whim; parents who are part of the 'unschooling' movement who think children learn more being out in the world; parents who let the kids decide everything in an attempt to be their friend. But, not everything we hear is reality. Most of the parents I know are just trying to get through the day, juggling work and raising a family, trying to keep up with changing technology, homework, and the fact that with every birthday of our children the clock seems to speed up! I once heard, "Behind every child is a parent who thinks s/he is messing everything up." Yup. We are - to quote the last post - trying to navigate life with a learners permit.
The thing about authority or power is that while you can force others to do things and can cause a great deal of hurt and harm...power and authority can also help heal. And, to toss/throw out he often quoted poem by Marianne Williamson, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, That most frightens us." Isaiah actually starts chapter 9 by talking about light and darkness. And we can sometimes get so used to walking in the dark, that we don't know how to go toward the light. Or the light might seem so different. Or the light might be listening to a child...even handing that child the keys to your car! That is the way God's presence is moving. That is the way we open to traces of grace. That is the invitation in these dwindling days of 2018. May we sense the incomprehensible wisdom of God guiding and ground us in such a time as this.