The Kingdom of Heaven

Senior student Shaelee Boender reflects on her summer internship:

“Miss Shaelee,” she said, holding out a tan piece of construction paper, “I drew this for you!”

I put my arm around her little shoulder, looked over the ice cream cone masterpiece, and replied, “How did you know ice cream is my favorite food ever?! Like ever, ever!” Her brown eyes lit up with joy as she shrugged her shoulders, saying, “I don’t know… I just drew it!”

The kingdom of heaven is like…

Recently I have been mulling over passages in Matthew 13. Jesus gives his followers a vision of the kingdom of heaven by using parables. He moves from mustard seeds to leavened bread to a merchant in search of fine pearls, even to a net that catches an array of fish.

Through these many visions, I always go back to this: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds…”

The smallest of all seeds. It takes 185,000 mustard seeds to make one pound. If every person in Des Moines, IA was a mustard seed—it would only weigh one pound!

I learned in my internship that the kingdom of heaven is already present and moving. The stirring in our hearts helps us to step in—to actively participate in the coming of God’s kingdom. What “surprisingly surprised” me is that this movement is not fast, loud, or big. Rather, it is fairly slow.

Getting to know kids, getting a glimpse of their lives outside the three hours each weekday we would spend with them, learning their stories, meeting parents, and beginning to understand the needs of the neighborhood… takes a long time.

Sometimes this work of creating authentic relationships felt insignificant as we played tag, painted rocks, or led the kids in exercises… but that was just what God was calling us to do. God was asking us to lean in, love, encourage, and ask questions in a way that brings life and joy.

The mustard seed is a powerful seed. When the seed is planted, it grows underground for a period of time. When it finally sprouts, its growth becomes almost impossible to stop.

This is what Jesus was saying. The coming of the kingdom is in the small and seemingly insignificant—but it is powerful, strong, and unstoppable. In some moments we see the sprouting forth from the earth, giving us glimpses of the kingdom of God advancing. But in the meantime, this slow process is a pull on my heart to remain faithful in the work God is inviting us to lean into.

The kingdom of heaven is liketwenty kids playing toilet tag.

The kingdom of heaven is like… children singing to Beach Boys songs while shaking plastic egg maracas.

The kingdom of heaven is like exercising to Moana—and giggling.

The kingdom of heaven is liketalking while making robots out of soup cans.

The kingdom of heaven is like holding a child’s hand.

The seemingly small. Outwardly insignificant. This is where power lies. The seeds have already been planted… only God knows how much they are spreading.

The kingdom of heaven is like an ice cream cone, a masterpiece made of crayon and marker, that finds its forever home on a tan piece of construction paper. This small act of generosity and thoughtfulness shows that God is working in this little girl’s life. And to be honest… I almost missed it. How often do we miss the work of God in those around us? Or perhaps even in our own hearts? All because it sometimes feels small or insignificant.

The kingdom of heaven is like…

 

 

 

A version of this article originally appeared here.