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Playing together in God’s kingdom


Children of Abraham

By Andrew Taylor-Troutman | Presbyterians Today

Mother and childDear mother wearing the hijab in the children’s museum:

As-salamu alaykum. Peace be upon you. When I have traveled to distant lands, hearing just one word in my cradle language has felt like having a familiar coat wrapped around me. So I speak peace to you.

Your beautiful brown son was playing dress-up in that green dragon costume. Leaping down from the top of a slide, he landed with a thud, his tennis shoes flashing red lights. My red-headed child was startled, but no harm was intended.

When my son began to cry, thank you for knowing exactly what to do! You hurried to his side, swishing your long dress. Kneeling to his eye level, you handed my son a mask: See? You play, too. English may not be your mother tongue, yet every child needs many adults who will crouch down at just the right distance. It was your reassuring smile that gave my son peace.

Your son was playing in costume. It grieves me that there may be adults who will stand over him and call him a monster. This is shameful, especially from fellow children of Abraham. We lash out at what we do not know because somewhere way back in our minds we fear we cannot control. This fear can freeze my heart and I feel it slip down like an ice cube somewhere behind my kneecap when I think of what it can mean for our children.

But we share other things in common: You and I and our giggling sons are endowed with the Infinite Incomprehensibility’s image. Let us begin there and then dig deeper.

O Lord, I am a passing guest — a pilgrim, like all my forebears. The Psalmic wisdom of humility was given long ago for a once-wandering, desert people to build communities of justice and inclusion. The law to love our neighbor was embodied by Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad of Mecca. I’ve learned stories about how the Prophet carried children high on his shoulders and performed prayers with his granddaughter on his back. In other words:

You play, too.

Jesus issued the invitation as well.

Let the little children come unto me and hinder them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It is striking how, in the sacred Scriptures, the first thing an angel says is: Be not afraid. We, too, are called to be messengers of such faith. Kneeling in prayer, crouching before a child, we create peace — shalom and salaam — which is not the mere absence of violence but the presence of harmony. As-salamu alaykum. Let us laugh and be tender.

Standing beside you in your silver hijab, I felt as if we were fast friends. Granted, there was a misunderstanding; yet even with a language barrier, you and I were able to enjoy the experience of my son racing after yours. They were just two boys playing under their masks. Yet they were positively drenched in enthusiasm! What will they remember? They may forget all the dragons and museums, but they will remember how we made them feel. If they are to be merciful, they must be shown mercy. We must wage peace, for we are the children of Abraham.

As our boys joined hands and spun around in a circle, blurring lines between white and brown, Christian and Muslim, I thought about how there is so much that connects us, so much for us to celebrate and live into together. And that thought made me feel like a child.

See? You play, too.

Thank you for your witness of faith.

As-salamu alaykum,

Andrew

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of New Dublin Presbyterian Church in southwestern Virginia. He is the author of three books: Take My Hand: A Theological Memoir, Parables of Parenthood: Interpreting the Gospels with Family and Earning Innocence.


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