Transformation: Let the Children Teach Us

03/28/2016 01:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that through the choices and perspective of Christ, all things are made new. Despite our desire to have what we love and enjoy stay with us always, and despite the profound pain of the loss of what we hold dear, all forms pass, and life remains.

The Buddhists say suffering is related to the strength of our attachment. When we are on a path that has been hard earned, standing in gratitude as we look toward a future that we visualize as strong and bright, an unexpected reality can shake us to our core.

Who would have guessed that just after the celebration of Palm Sunday, as adoring crowds heralded in Jesus as savior, He could be perceived as a threat too large to contain and be brutalized to crucifixion? And yet, the pain of this cruel turn of events is part of a process of transformation that ends with a new beginning in resurrection.

Each of us can experience transformation...as long as we don't get stuck in the part where crucifixion and death are front and center.

A new documentary called Stories from the Land of Canaan, features three short vignettes of parents who have a child with profound differences. Mary, one of the parents, offers surprising advice for those of us who do not have a loved one with differences: "Forgive yourself for the way people with disabilities make you feel." Before she had her daughter, Mary Addison, Mary said she felt offended when she encountered someone with a disability - and ashamed for how she felt about it.

It reminded me of when Christ was on the cross and said of his torturers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Without understanding the context or experience of others, it can be challenging to put ourselves in their shoes. From our naiveté, we judge, we feel uncomfortable with the odd or unknown, and, like Mary, we sometimes feel the shame behind those judgments and feelings.

Mary goes on to help us understand what is possible in the journey of transformation, from crucifixion to resurrection: "Our journey with Mary Addison has been a journey of love... of incredible pain that has led to the most profound joy because of her innocence and her freedom to just allow. No judging, no greed, no barriers, just a human with a heart....

We have learned the power of just allowing our hearts to be open to pain. When you're open to the pain, something else accompanies the pain...and it is an expanding of your heart....Once you let go of the struggle of worrying about what other people think about a child who cannot conform, then it gives us the freedom to not conform."

We live in a society that worships the image of perfection, fame, wealth, and high achievement in competition with peers- and we pressure children to conform to these images. We also worship images of violence and weaponry and encourage children through the media to imagine themselves in desperate means working toward survival. And then we witness unprecedented diagnoses of anxiety, depression and suicide in young children.

Maybe that image of perfection is the image of Christ that the crowds held as they worshipped Him on Palm Sunday. They did not know that His mission was not to rescue people from their pain, but to transform their pain, suffering and death into resurrection - a place marked by an expanded heart.

Mary Addison, a child who cannot conform, teaches us who we are. Mary, her parent, teaches us what transformation means, from crucifixion to resurrection. Perhaps when we die to the part of us that pressures us to conform to society's images of success, then we, like Mary, may also find the joy in our expanded heart.