Whoever Welcomes One of These Little Children
My husband and I have arranged our Sunday mornings so that we go to worship alone while the girls are in Sunday School. Not ideal since our church encourages families to worship together. But it is what we can do at this stage in our family’s life.
That undistracted hour and a half in the sanctuary is the highlight of my week and I feed off the spiritual feast of corporate worship and expository preaching for the next six days until I can return to the banquet again.
This Sunday morning, Joy’s Sunday School team gave me an unexpected gift. Surprisingly, we made it to church while her leaders was still praying. So like several other families, we signed in Joy and waited.
The team finished inviting God into their midst and opened the doors to children. The team leader greeted each of the kids ahead of us. Then it was Joy’s turn. But the PCA who accompanies her to Sunday School had not yet arrived. Typically that means we step aside and wait in the hallway.
Since Joy began using her wheelchair in September, I’ve noticed a shift in the way other people interact with her. During the years she rode in our arms, I think casual observers assumed she was a toddler. While her wheelchair gives her mobility, it also instantly defines her as a child who cannot walk.
Children engage with Joy now because in her chair she’s on their level and her chair elicits their curiosity. That’s a positive.
But adults, who don’t know how to help her unless we train them (hence the PCA who has accompanied her to Sunday School for two years), are less likely to engage because she’s not at their eye level. Not to mention the significant fact that until last August, Joy simply would not go happily to anyone she did not know well.
It was a mutual stand-off: she did not trust that others would meet her needs; consequently, others had a hard time learning how to help her.
All of that leads to the amazing moment Sunday morning when Joy reached the front of the check-in line without her PCA. The team leader opened the gate and welcomed Joy by name to Sunday School and pushed her chair into the classroom, just as these leaders see every other child into the care of a team member inside the classroom door. Then the team leader came out and welcomed the next child.
It was so normal that it made me cry –just like I am crying now.
Joy’s PCA arrived shortly and spent the rest of the morning in class as planned. But that small gesture –simply welcoming my daughter into Sunday School like every other child is welcomed –touched me deeply. It said: We know Joy now. Her differences don’t scare us. She’s not a burden; she’s welcome here.
“And [Jesus] took a little child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him into his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:37 ESV)
Or as Jesus said at the end of Sunday’s sermon text, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:20 ESV)
That Word was preached in my heart at the door to Preschool 1 before I ever reached the sanctuary.