Saturday, October 27, 2012

Children and trust

It is funny what I remember, and when.

Tonight I went to the confirmation dinner for three girls, Annelise and Erica and Siri, who were in the fourth and fifth grades when I started at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer.  They're in ninth and tenth now, and on the verge of confirmation.  I won't be there tomorrow when they affirm their baptism publicly; I'll be at my new church, my internship church, the church that I am increasingly referring to as "mine" and "ours" and, with surprise and pain, to LCCR as "theirs" and "yours."

It was a blessing to see them, not much older than when I left three months ago, and just as effusive in affection and energy.  It was good to sit with their parents and families and remember.  They are three remarkable young women.  I cried, of course.  And yet I am so happy.

Tonight I came home and bandaged my thumb, which is torn open across the pad.  I'm not good in the kitchen.  And a memory hit me, suddenly:  four years and some months ago, I bandaged Annelise's knee.

It was spring, not long after I'd started; a month at least had passed, but not two.  I still wasn't sure what I was doing there, or anywhere really.  I was barely twenty-three.  The doors were open at the back of the church after worship, and the Sunday School kids were running back and forth across the new cement patio.

Suddenly, at my elbow, were Annelise and her older sister Solveig.  Solveig was only five years younger than me, and on the verge of college; Annelise was ten, maybe eleven.  I am not entirely certain, now, that I knew Solveig's name at the moment that they appeared, baring Annelise's leg from under her pretty dress.  She had fallen.  She was bleeding.  And they presented themselves to me, to the Children's Education Associate, because -- she would know what to do, right?

The millions of things never covered in religion classes or seminary include "know where the first aid kit is."  Life experience had taught me to check the kitchen and then the bathrooms, and I got lucky:  it was on the counter next to the coffee maker.  I knelt at her feet, Annelise sitting and watching, Solveig offering commentary.  I found the antiseptic wipes and cleaned her leg.  It was gruesome.  It was icky.  I do not like other people's blood.  And yet I did not shirk from it.  I found the antibiotic ointment, in single-serving packages, and the Band-Aids, and I bound up her skinned knee.

I remember she thanked me, and so did Solveig, and then she hopped off the bench and they found their parents and headed home.

It was such a clear moment, and yet so hazy.  Kairos time, we call it in church-speak:  when something happens to pull you outside of the linear progression of time.

It was a simple thing, for a Sunday School kid to hurt her knee and come to her teacher for a Band-Aid.

And yet it was so complex, to know that a kid I barely knew would trust me, and to find in that moment of trust that I could do what I needed to do.

I am not called to children's ministry, specifically, although there is no doubt that I am good with kids and enjoy them.  I am called instead to the hurting, to the pained, to the bleeding leg that begs for someone with compassion to care and bandage it.  I love the honesty of children, the naked questions and critiques, because I long for the honesty of people, the doubts put into words, the hesitations voiced, the challenges understood and met.

It is a blessing to be reminded of this, and to be trusted with it.

Thanks be to God.

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