|***photo credit Jennifer Upton|
Linking up with The Girls We Once Were synchroblog.
“Find the girl forgotten” was a quest given to me near the end of 2013. I knew what it meant but I did not know quite what it meant. But I heard the whisper, the song, the theme- it kept emerging through my poetry in unexpected ways. A message from within. It spoke to me over and over.
Finding the girl forgotten was still on my heart when I came to my friend Brandy Walker for a Shalom Session. She guided me through some of the principles of Theophostic prayer and urged me to make some quiet time where I would invite Jesus into a troubling situation from my past and experience His truth in that space.
I began by meditation, opening as I normally do each time:
“Blessed art thou O Lord our God, King of the universe who brings forth light out of darkness.
Blessed art thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Blessed art thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the vine.
Blessed art thou O Lord our God, Creator and Sustainer.”
I opened myself to be led by the deeply embedded desires of my spirit. I was taken into a vision of a little girl with blond ringlets, sitting in a pew, legs in white, itchy tights, toes squished inside scuffed white shoes. The girl was swinging those legs impatiently, waiting for the long words to be over. At last the music began tremoring softly, and there were trays of bread being passed around and trays of juice being uncovered. Her eyes lit up in delight and she waited expectantly for them to arrive in front of her. The light went out of those eyes as the tray passed overhead.
Here was where my vision became epiphany.
Here, I had found the girl forgotten. It was me, as a child, being refused the right to take communion. Being passed over. Forgotten.
“Why?” came the troubled and sorrowful question.
A voice spoke from the front of the church: “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner…” it droned, deep with self-importance.
Unworthy. The word stuck with that little girl, who was also me; that word is with me still. It is a frightening word. The kind that puts shackles on my wrists and knives through my joy. The kind that says I am not free unless I get it right. The kind that says there are people who are smarter and know much better than I that this is for my own good.
GOOD. IS THIS GOOD! I became angry. Angry, angry, angry!
Here, a room full of adults could come to Jesus, partaking of His body and blood in the presence of the sacraments, while the children sat dejectedly, kicking their dangling legs furiously and wondering why they must witness but not participate.
I invited Jesus into this mess. This mess where children were excluded on the basis of “the unworthy clause.” He sat with me on my right, next to me, an aura of quietness and gentleness, and a deep sadness. I knew he understood. He was modeling the grief that I needed to feel for this moment. He was weeping with me in my moment of fully experiencing the pain I had suppressed for years and years, the word I had taken into me instead of the bread and juice.
As I felt His grief, my anger was folded up and put away, and I felt the tears begin to burn.
“What Lord? What do you have to say to me about this? What is it you want my heart to hear?”
“Start over,” were the only words that came.
So I began my meditation practice from the beginning. Lifting my arms up to heaven for my fingertips to meet and bringing them back down to my heart,
“Blessed art thou O lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth light out of darkness.
Blessed are thou O lord our God, who brings forth the bread from the earth.
Blessed art thou O lord our God who created the fruit of the vine.
Blessed art thou O lord our God, Creator and Sustainer.”
“I am the vine and you are the branches,” Jesus whispered. “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
“Uh… Lord? That’s not what I wanted to hear,” I began. “What does that have to do with me now?”
“Apart from me…” he was smiling gently. “It means no one should ever have kept you apart from me. It was never my will that you should have been prevented from coming to me. You belong, child.”
Then, he laid a weathered brown hand on the blond haired child- on me! I felt it, too, and spoke a word with a power and authority as none I have ever witnessed.
Worthy! I let those words sink in.
Suddenly he was at the front of the church, overturning the communion table, spilling the metal serving dishes with a great clatter. It wasn’t scary because all the children knew it was for them. The little girl laughed in delight as he lifted up his voice and cried out, “Let the little children come to me! Let the little children come to me!”
A great clamor arose as a throng of joyful, noisy, excited and energetic children came racing toward him from all directions. Over the pews, down the aisles, through the doorways on the side. A flurry of legs and white tulle and little shoes pounding on the low-pile carpet. Jesus spread his arms wide and they all fit. WE all fit. The adults were frozen uncomfortably in their positions, faded almost to shadows in the light emanating from Jesus.
Still I could feel that gentle compression on my head. The confirmation of unconditional love. Did you hear? No conditions! Not one! No dire warnings of terrible consequences for joyfully partaking in the sacrament. Just the open arms of Jesus, welcoming.
“Worthy.” The word is still echoing in my ear. Worthy. He says I am worthy. I don’t have to listen to the ones who deprive children out of fear of getting it wrong. Fear of condemnation. There is NO condemnation.
Jesus was still saying those words, “Let the children come” even as I awoke from my vision; the truth He wanted me to hear.
He is still saying “Let the children come. Let the children come. Let the children come.”
I pray for a great awakening soon, that the church would recognize the worth of its most valuable members. I pray we will welcome the children to come to the open and waiting arms of Jesus and share in the grace of partaking. I pray they will grow up knowing they are worthy, valued, and loved.
Do not let them be forgotten. Lord, this is my prayer. Let the children not be forgotten.