Do you remember going to the library as a kid? The library was (is) one of my absolute favorite places on earth. Getting to walk around and touch the spines of the books and choose a story that I found exciting or interesting or special—that was the stuff of life!
Yesterday I found myself sitting in the library at the James W. Hennigan school in Jamaica Plain. I have visited the library many times, and every time it looks the same: books haphazardly sitting on the shelves, untouched and unread. It breaks my heart, but even more it breaks the heart of the staff and teachers who desperately wish they had the resources and time to provide a vibrant library for the children in their care!
As I sat there, I found myself thinking about how much work it will take to get the library up and running. Work that I don’t really understand and have no expertise in (even as a proud card carrier of four different library systems…) I also found myself thinking, I know this work is worth it, but I can’t really articulate why. Sure, I know statistics about how important reading is to early childhood development. And I know that the school will appreciate the effort. But considering the magnitude of the Great Commission, this call to make disciples and bring regenerative truth to the world, what am I doing in this tiny library at this elementary school?
My thoughts were interrupted by a group of kids careening past the library windows. They were goofing off and the boys were making the girls scream about something, and it all just made me smile. This made me think of when Jesus tells the disciples to let the children come to him. Then he says that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18: 17) Kids can believe in a way that we often lose over time; the faith of a child is pure and simple.
It’s easy for me to want to have “the faith of an adult”: measured, informed, knowledgeable about my ministry efforts and aware of their impact. And while God created us to think deeply and critically and these are good things, this mindset also inches me dangerously towards desiring omniscience and even omnipotence—I want to know that my work matters, I want to control its efficacy and make sure it has benefits and worth. But at the end of the day, my understanding is finite and sometimes I just don’t know what impact was or was not made and have no control over the results of my own actions.
I think there’s a wonder in not knowing, a sort of mystery in being a part of God’s work without comprehending exactly what’s going on. It leaves room for dreaming, for hoping, for the pure faith of a child to wonder “what could the shelving of children’s books be in the hands of a powerful God?”
Consider joining in the labor of the Hennigan School library with me; shelve a book and be a part of God’s mysterious, unknowable, restorative work. And let’s see if we can’t regain some wonder along the way.