Last Sunday morning, little Jenna had just come out of Bible class at our church.
Jenna has not been around very long. She may be two years old. That’s pretty close anyway. She and her daddy had just come into the "big room" — the sanctuary/auditorium. She managed to get away from her daddy. She made her way down the center aisle until she got to the steps leading up to the podium. She climbed a couple of those steps and then turned around and sat down. When she sat down on the step, she seemed to be taking in the moment. Jenna looked down at the step she was sitting on and put the palms of her hands on the step. She began watching the people as they came in.
Hundreds of people were coming in through three different doors. You could hear the steady roar of people greeting one another. People were making their way to their pews. When they sat down, some of them saw Jenna and smiled. Meanwhile, she was taking it all in.
I had been standing near a front row (our pews are arranged in sort of a fan shape) and had been watching little Jenna. I walked over to the steps where she was sitting and sat down beside her. (This was about five minutes before the worship service would begin.) I looked at her. She looked at me. I said, "This is fun isn’t it."
Then she heard a familiar voice. Her dad had found her. (All of this took place within a minute — if even that long.) Away she went to sit with her parents. (Her parents, Jason and Erin, are a wonderful couple who I have loved for a number of years.)
That morning Jenna was not self-conscious. She did not notice herself. She was not worried about what others were thinking. She was not preoccupied with the impression she was leaving with others. No, she was just being Jenna. That is the beauty of a child. A child lives in freedom.
We adults are often very self-conscious. I have known adults who were so preoccupied with themselves and with what others thought that they resorted to a kind of emotional manipulation. That is, they tried to hijack the emotions of others instead of just living in the freedom of genuine relationship. Such manipulators have a way of just wearing people out over a period of time. Such a relationship becomes more about the manipulator than the give and take of a loving friendship.
For several years, I have been reading a wonderful journal simply called Conversations. (The subtitle is "A Forum of Authentic Transformation." The editors are David Benner, Gary Moon, and Larry Crabb. In a recent issue, both Dallas Willard and Richard Foster were featured in an interview.) Recently, I read an article in which the authors asked,
Are you willing to go beyond sharing selective windows into your lives, being only cautiously transparent? Are you willing to be really ‘vulnerable’?
Maybe that is a good question for all of us. To be vulnerable is to forget self and remember God. If my life is found in God, why would I be preoccupied with what others think? After all, he has not only shown me his love and acceptance, he lavishes me with his love on a daily basis. What does a preoccupation with self really say about me or you? Does this make sense?
In the meantime, I think I would like to be more like Jenna.
(The above quote is take from "The Kingdom is for the Broken: Keeping Church Doors Open for Ragamuffins" in Conversations, vol. 4-1, Spring 2006, by David Johnson, Keith Meyer, and Judith Hougen.)