In Iowa, most children return to school this week. There is excitement. There are tears. Summer break is over. It is back to a routine, wearing shoes, packing lunches and bedtime struggles. Some parents find themselves with an empty nest or a quieter house.
The children meet new teachers, learn the daily schedule, make new friends, rediscover homework and wonder when the next day of vacation will be. Each day brings knowledge, new discoveries and experiences. They will grow, learn and change.
I remember very well the days of sending our boys off to school and losing control over what they would see and learn. It was scary at first, then it seems we just accepted that we were no longer the primary influence for our children. They were now exposed to the world with all of its reality and falsehoods, good and bad, temptations and evil. No longer could I protect them from danger or shelter them from nastiness and cruelty.
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea," (Matthew 18:1-6 NIV).
Though Jesus promises punishment to those who cause children to sin, it doesn't exclude them from bad situations. The best I can do is pray for them. I urge you all to take time to pray for your children and grandchildren as they leave the comforts of home. Pray for the neighbor kids who climb aboard the bus; the children from church who begin a new year; the little ones skipping down your sidewalk. Pray for their safety, their ability to understand and learn, to read and understand math. Pray for the children who begin band lessons and sports. Pray for them to be blessed by a love for what they do and learn. Pray for the college students you know; may they be confident in their faith and seek out friends who will lift them up with encouragement and truth. Pray for teenagers who face temptations we don't even realize. May God keep them safe on the roads, in their classrooms, when they gather with friends.
Lord, be with our precious children today and each day. Help us to humble ourselves and welcome children into our circles of love and care. Make us as children in our faith so we can join you in the kingdom of heaven. In the name of Your Son, Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.