Higher Octane – My Crowns in This Life

Grandparenting is one of the most fun and most rewarding parts of my current life.  Maybe I’ve always been oriented to the little ones.  Or is it that I’m not that interested in adult stuff?  Rather, I’d like to think that I take Jesus seriously when He said, “Let the little children come unto me.” 

Michie Tavern in Charlottesville provided a great environment two autumns ago for photographing my family, especially those crowns.

I’m looking forward to a few days with the grandkids next month.  We will keep them for a week while their parents head off on an island vacation.  Reading books, playing board games, finding playgrounds and attempting to introduce them to “stranger foods” will make up the bulk of our time together.  Pretty much bliss for me – they are fun!

When I was in seminary, I worked with college student ministries.  I worked with high school and middle school students as a full-time minister later.  Then as a part-time minister, I worked with youth, children, and preschoolers.  As a young man, I hadn’t thought the little ones was where I would have the most fun, but it’s true.  Ages three to five – ministering to these ages is very rewarding.

First, they believe that you are there to bless them.  That’s not a given in the older crowd!  Second, they respond with faith, and usually it’s very humbling and gratifying to see.  Third, you get to see their innocent mistakes and misunderstandings, which serve not only to entertain, but to show us all that we are imperfect beings.  Sometimes they tell you something that you would never hear from an older person – especially not their parents.  Other times, you get honest opinions that take you back a step.

Probably the thing I appreciate the most about kids:  If I make one of my autistic mistakes, they usually will forgive me! I might get an initial funny look, but that funny look doesn’t last as long as it would from adults.  Children’s resilience is an example to us all.  I want to have that kind of freedom with others, and children usually have plenty of forgiveness to spare.

I was working with a group of preschoolers almost 20 years ago – and having a great time.  I loved making the puppet “misremember” the bible verse, and having the kids teach the puppet how to get it right.  Although I’m not a great artist, I also enjoyed sitting down at the same table and coloring with the kids, commenting encouragingly on their artwork and sketching a few goofy images of my own to try to get a laugh.

Somehow one boy and I started talking about drawing Jesus.  What would it be like to really see him?  There was a popular praise song at the time entitled, “We Fall Down.”  It came from the idea of “every knee will bow” when we do stand before Him one day.  One phrase in the song says, “we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus.”

Every locality has a dialect, and rural Virginia is no exception.  There we were in Sunday School – using crayons – which many Virginians and other southerners pronounce with only one syllable:  “crowns.”  The boy wanted me to draw the song – Jesus sitting on a throne with “crowns” laying all around him.  I did my best to explain to him that the song was talking about crowns like royals wear, but that it was okay to think about crayons, too.

It still makes me smile whenever I hear the song – the little boy was envisioning crayons at the feet of Jesus.  I know that one thing that occupies my grandchildren — when the adults have to do other “big people” things — is coloring.  I can see all the heavenly children coloring in peace at Jesus’ feet. 

That’s a favorite memory from working with other parents’ kids.  My memories of my children, and now my grandchildren, are treasures to me.  And I’m very blessed to have been able to work with and make memories with various other little disciples.   I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a good father.  Maybe I was oriented this way because all these little ones have been a major source of joy for me.

I am so fortunate that my autism did not prevent me from participating in all these other lives.  Maybe not knowing my diagnosis until my 50s was a part of that.  I need to remember that others are not as fortunate.

Proverbs 17:6 starts with, “Children’s children are the crown of old men.”  These kids make it easy for me to keep the material things — like my Mini — in perspective.  And just maybe, if I can get my own grands excited about small cars, then perhaps I’ll be “doubly blessed” while I’m on this earth! LOL and keep shiftin’.

Published by Bart Shoaf

Blogging about victories and challenges as a middle-aged man with a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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