Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Kingdom of God (03/12/09)
TITLE: Sand-Sprinkler in the Basileia Tou Theou
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Two-year-old Russell loves playing alone within the protected confines of his portable play yard, especially when it encircles the sandbox.
One morning as the appointed babysitter, I watched him from a spot on the nearby deck while sipping a mug of mint tea. A stiff breeze swept across the yard and stirred fluffs of his silvery-blonde, dandelion-like hair.
He’s such a beautiful child!
Russell fingered the sand between his chubby fingers and let it slowly sift onto the top railing of the play yard into a little pile, reminding me of grains falling through the slender neck of an hourglass to shape a well-defined hump. Engrossed in this simple work that commanded his total focus, he had no thought for anything but the sand. In fact, he seemed consumed by it: delighted and awe-inspired. Russell could not be distracted, and his patience was exemplary.
Both his demeanor and behavior struck me, perhaps because in Russell’s economy every moment of every day is the ONLY moment that exists. He doesn’t know how to regret the past or fear the future.
Summer sun - an icon of grace - bathed and warmed his busy shoulders and arms. He bent over to pinch as much sand as he could between his fingers, then stood up, sprinkled, and bent over again. The routine continued with a growing sense of precision and purpose.
“Russell?” I bent forward and spoke his name, knowing he would most likely not respond. “Russell? Do you like that sand?”
But words meant nothing to Russell, and his gaze did not shift from his work. He’d been born lacking certain genes and, according to medical statistics, would probably never speak.
I leaned back in my lawn chair, wondering what life looked like from Russell’s point of view – what this physically attractive, chromosomally deficient child knew and felt.
“You don’t need much – just this sandbox,” I mumbled. “You’re totally dependent on others, and you love simplicity. Russell, I’m sixty years older than you; I wish I could be as expectant and eager to embrace what each day brings, as trusting and confident! You’re not hung up by worldly standards or expectations. Do you know how blessed you are?”
Russell’s fingers continued to deftly practice the same routine without pause. How could he be so content? Why was I so captivated by his absorption in the present moment?
“Maybe you were given to us as an example.” I placed my now-empty cup on the floor of the deck and gestured toward him with my own hands as the sand fell predictably from his fingers. “You’re a small, unpresuming mustard seed full of yet unidentifiable or measurable potential.”
“Or a sprinkling of yeast, ready and eager to grow into something really BIG at God’s hand; yeast able to demonstrate how God’s power is made perfect in human weakness.” I added more gestures, this time encompassing huge arm-sized, sweeping circles.
Russell seemed not to notice.
I thought about the time the disciples haggled over which one might be considered greatest in God’s kingdom. “Jesus said those who ‘change and become like little children’ are greatest. I think maybe you could be the example He had in mind for me, Russell.”
With an almost-reverent tone, I whispered several attributes of childlikeness to my seemingly disinterested audience. “You’re accepting and completely dependent, aren’t you little buddy, totally innocent and expectant, and not ego-driven. Every thing, every person, every experience in your life inspires awe; nothing is ordinary or taken for granted.” I became very quiet, and then added another thought. “Maybe you can hear God better than the rest of us who are so easily distracted.”
Russell looked up at me momentarily with crystal-clear blue eyes that seemed to grasp my conjecture. Perhaps he owned an innate, uncluttered intelligence that allowed him to see through facades to some other dimension – a supernatural one? I wondered if he could see beyond my words into my own soul, and if so, how he perceived his grandmother? Did he see presumption? Martyrdom? Resignation? Hope? Or was his vision too pure to even recognize anything beyond his own innocence, awe, and longing?
“Lord, make me more like Russell.” I honestly wanted to embrace the virtues of childlikeness I saw in Russell’s undeveloped but emerging character: his uncluttered dependence; his receptivity, authenticity and open vulnerability. “For of such is the basileia tou theou – the kingdom of God.”
Author’s note: The references to the God’s kingdom being like a mustard seed and yeast can be found in Jesus’ parables in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 13 verses 31 through 35.
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