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Heart Matters: Time to See

Margaret Beheler

My experiences as a child in church weren't positive. My family didn't encourage me to follow Jesus as a child -- but I knew I needed him. So I regularly walked down the road from my house to Sunday school and a Wednesday evening program -- alone.

At church, we memorized verses and listened to Bible stories; I rarely missed a class. Still, all those times I was in church, none of my teachers ever really "saw" me. Had any of them gotten to know me, they would've seen a young girl deeply hurt from abuse, ridiculed by peers because her brother was in prison, and scarred by others' words and actions. I felt unlovable, without value. So while my world was suspended in pain, the church programs clicked along as usual. No one saw me. And eventually I stopped attending.

In sixth grade, a friend invited me to spend the night and go to church with her family. That's where I met Miss Gooch.

Miss Gooch saw me. She didn't glance past me, eager to carry on with the program. She gazed into my eyes and saw what was happening in my heart. Miss Gooch was Jesus to me that morning. When she looked at the group, she didn't see a group...she saw individual children who needed Jesus.

I still remember the lesson: We studied Psalm 1 that day. I learned the differences between the righteous and the wicked. How I longed to be a tree firmly planted by streams of water so I too would yield good fruit!

Miss Gooch impacted my life. She radiated Jesus' love. She touched the heart of a hurting child and helped cement my need for Jesus.

Do we take time to see into the eyes and hearts of our children, or do we glance over them while rushing through the program? Learning memory verses and Bible stories is important -- but more important is children's need to see Jesus in the lives and actions of their teachers. They need to experience Jesus in every encounter with us.

Jesus was very personal. He knew his audience...the individuals. He cared for people. He had time to listen. And, yes, he gazed into their eyes and really saw them. As children's ministry servants, we should do no less.

Life presents obstacles to kids finding Jesus. Many of our children hurt. Some are from homes ripped apart by divorce. Some have lost parents or loved ones. Others are physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. Some lose parents to jail or addiction. Children need our help -- and Jesus' presence -- to walk through these life situations.

May our churches not be places for mere entertainment or programs. May they be places where children are ushered into God's presence so their hurts and pains can be healed. May our churches be a safe haven for children, a place where adults take time to really see and really listen. May we show children that life with Jesus is a wonderful adventure. cm

Margaret Beheler is the minister of women and children at her church in Arlington, Texas. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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