On Easter Sunday, I realised the beautiful stupidity of children.
I had been invited to speak at an Easter camp in the heart of the Waikato, sharing the story of Jesus to a few hundred youth aged 10–13. For four days, these tweens had mud fights, engaged in epic games, kayaked, paint-balled and danced with an almost palpable energy.
Amidst the activity, I spoke to the youth about faith, life and Jesus. Pretty quickly, I became a minor celebrity at camp. I don't think my ego needed stroking, but these kids would yell my name whenever they saw me, rush over for high-fives, and laugh at my jokes.
In all these situations—I held the power. I was the one on stage sharing, they were sitting and listening. I would ask for volunteers for to engage in a game, they would come up and follow my instructions. If there was one ring, I was wearing it.
The Sunday Special
On the Sunday night, I gave an opportunity for the young people to respond and come forward to chat with their leaders more about Jesus and faith. After this invitation, I went into the wings of the gymnasium, seeking a bit of solitude to organise my thoughts and reflect on the evening.
Suddenly, I heard a gasping breath and felt a tap on my shoulder. A young kid—no older than 12—was standing next to me. His face was lit up with an incredible joy, and his shoulders were heaving with excitement. He was struggling to breathe, but clearly wanted to talk.
Amidst his gasps, he shared with me what God was doing in his life, and how he met Jesus that night. Although he could only speak a few words at a time before needing a breath, his voice still quivered with excitement and he managed to get the story out. I was laughing along with him—his joy was contagious.
Then, as his story concluded, I offered to pray for him. It was in this moment I realised the beautiful stupidity.
The maybe-12-year-old looked at me, and said, 'No.'
He gasped a bit. Then he said, 'I need to pray for you'. He proceeded to pray the most beautiful, gasping, breathless prayer I have ever heard. I was left gob-smacked. He danced off into the evening, ready to go and pray for others.
Regardless of your theology and belief about Christianity—this story is surprising. It flips the conventions, and it ushers in surprising new possibilities.
Normally, the 29-year-old speaker is the one praying for the 12-year-old camper. Normally, adults offer advice and guidance to children. Normally, children are shy around new people.
A Childish Head Spin
This child spun the norm on its head, and created a new story. He didn't know what was normal—or at least he didn't care. He laughed (or gasped) in the face of usual intelligence—and acted stupidly. He flouted common-sense, and engaged in something new, something nonsensical—and he turned out to be the wise one.
Many times in life, I've wished I was stupid like this child.
The intelligence of our world tends to keep me focused on maintaining the status quo, following the safe path, speaking what people want to hear, honouring celebrities, ignoring the poor and down-trodden, chasing power and success, and fearing the unknown.
Yet this intelligence so often keeps me skimming along the surface of life—never really engaging with the colour, the potential and the possibility beckoning those who dive deeper.
Just a Nameless Woman
I'm reminded of a story from Jesus' life, when he was invited to have dinner with the wealthy and powerful religious brokers, businessmen and politicians of the town.
It appeared this meal was going intelligently—people were playing by the social rules, exchanging pleasantries and perhaps trying to gradually morph Jesus into their own image.
Suddenly, a person barges in to the house—a stupid act. More so, this person is a woman known for her loose-living. This is doubly-stupid. She falls before Jesus, weeping and bathing his feet with her tears and hair. This is beyond folly—this is bizarre.
Yet, this act of brazen stupidity is actually an act of deep intelligence. She, of all the people, recognises who Jesus is. She—of all the intelligentsia who surround—understands that Jesus is the one who will suffer for her, and so she anoints him. She comprehends that only Jesus can transform her life, so she approaches him. In a surprising plot twist, she—an outcast, sinful woman—trumps the so-called intelligence of the powerful.
The Wise Dane
I've been struck by the words of Soren Kierkegaard this year—words I don't claim to live by, yet still call deeply to me. In his journal, he wrote, 'It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it.'
These possibilities, these hints, are often stupid. They flaunt the usual and derail intelligence. Yet, when we follow these we discover—like a breathless 12-year-old, or a weeping woman—that life and possibility are found in the stupidity and impossibility of something new and unknown.
Jeremy is a student and Innovation Consultant (www.creativate.co.nz) who has never wept on someone's feet, to the best of his knowledge.
Jeremy Suisted's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-suisted.html