For the last two Sundays, I've been playing the piano as the children at church prepare for their annual children's program. Next week, they will present the entire Sunday service. It's a highlight every year and I'm excited to be involved in a small way.
One of the songs they are singing this year is incredibly beautiful and I'm often in tears by the time we finish practicing (I'm including a YouTube clip below because you should all hear it). At the beginning, three little children are singing about the miracles of Jesus. One of the lines says, "Jesus blessed and healed the leper." But they say, "Jesus blessed and healed the leopard."
Every time I play the song in my mind that's the version I hear now. The first time I heard it, I laughed. And I still smile. But now it's almost sacred to me.
There's something about that I find very moving. And I've tried to think about it why. I think the childlike faith that Jesus healed a leopard is really lovely. I love that they are translating Jesus's miracles to something that makes sense to them. That's beautiful, as is the fact that they don't see anything strange or unusual in it. I imagine their thought process (such as it was) going something like this: Jesus healed a leopard! Leopards are cool. Jesus can do anything! And he loves them and they love leopards and so he loves leopards. I have a hard time finding any fault with that reasoning, honestly.
All week long this simple statement has had me pondering and reflecting on Jesus, his love, and his miracles in an expansive way. By that, I mean my faith and hope are expanding and growing as a result of what they said. I am more conscious of a view that Jesus is a loving god who knows and loves us. Their faith has lifted my vision and increased my faith and trust in him, in his love, in his power, and in his reality. Their simple misstatement is a profound lesson for me. For truly, healing a leopard is no stranger than healing a leper. If he can do one, he can surely do the other. And if a leper or a leopard, why not me?
I've wondered before why Jesus was so emphatic about becoming like a child and why they have such a place of honor. Children, after all, can be unruly. Any parent can tell you that they can be willful and stubborn and any number of things Jesus does not encourage. They fight, they lie, they throw tantrums. They can be sneaky and prone to lash out, and are easily overcome by their emotions rather than being temperate.
Perhaps part of it is that in their unsophisticated ability to experience wonder they are open to belief and faith in a way that most adults are simply not. Even their logical fallacies can be grounded in a higher truth, something that opens and expands our more narrow, contracted views. Their view can quickly redirect our own spiritual eyes, lifting them upward, away from the limitations and pinched view of physical reality that weans us away from a belief in miracles.