Become like children

Psalm 93, 96 (Morning)

Psalm 34 (Evening)

Ecclesiasticus 46:11-20

Revelation 15:1-8

Matthew 18:1-14

Jesus invites us in today’s Gospel reading to “change and become like children”–something seemingly simple, but upon closer inspection, not as simple as we’d like to believe. Our brains don’t always process the difference between “childish” and “child-like.” When I reflect upon what this means for me, it always boils down to the hopeful optimism that I used to have in my relationship with my grandfather.

I am grateful that there are still a few older folks in my hometown left who remind me now and then about what a special relationship my grandpa and I had. It was clear I was the apple of his eye, and it was equally clear that I thought the sun and moon rose and set in him. Now, he was far from a perfect human being. But even in his flaws, I somehow always knew that in the end, it would all work out if he was in on it. It was a relationship that was actually born in a great deal of pain and tragedy–I was only 8 months old when his only son, Richard, was killed in a hunting accident at age 11. I’m wise enough to realize that had Richard been in our family, my grandpa would have had this relationship with him, not me. But somehow, he ended up putting the love he would have shared with his only son, into a relationship with me. I’m forever grateful for this marvelous love that transcended generation and gender.

It is not lost on me that a term I’ve heard used for God by the people I’ve met in my two visits to the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation mission is “Tunkasila”–Grandfather. (The other word I’ve heard is “Wankan Tanka”–The Great Mystery.) Really, it describes my childhood relationship with my grandfather perfectly. I didn’t always know how or why things were trustable when my grandpa was involved, I just knew they were. I knew there was nothing I couldn’t tell him. I knew it would not always work out “my way,” but it would work out in a way I could stand, and know I was loved, even in my disagreement. He was beloved ancestor and great mystery all rolled into one. This combination remained intact through all the difficult transitions in the 30 years I knew him–through my awkward pre-teen years, my difficult and disagreeable teenaged years, and early adulthood.

However, it took me years to see God as anything but overbearing, spiteful, and heavy handed. But for me, learning to begin to trust God in a child-like way was all about learning to see God as part Tunkasila and part Wakan Tanka.

When have you seen God as Tunkasila and Wakan Tanka?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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