"I tell you the truth. You must change and become like little children [in your hearts]. If you don’t do this, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Most of the time I find myself
taking life too seriously. I put up walls of protection, tighten my
shoulders, and grit my teeth. Why do I find it so hard to become like a little child? Is it the fear of rejection? The need to be loved? What did Jesus mean by this verse?
Many years ago, my family and I went to a friend’s mountain cottage for
a few days vacation. It was a warm, glowing, full-of-personality
place. After unpacking the car we decided to take a little walk.
Although it was dark, the snow was so bright we didn’t even take a
light. As we walked down the hill, I plopped myself down in the snow.
Then lying flat on my back, I began to laugh, swinging my arms and legs
up and down. When I stood up to shake off the snow, I saw the beautiful
imprint of a snow angel. “I have always wanted to do that,” I said.
It made me feel like a little child.
When I went to the
dermatologist for a precancerous spot on my nose, treatment meant going
through some awful looking stages. One day in the Dollar Store, a
little girl said, “You gotta bobo on your nose?” I said, “Yes, I do.”
When she looked at me with great concern and compassion, I told her, “It
doesn’t hurt. It will go away soon.” She smiled and said, “Oh.”
While most adults seemed to feel awkward about it, the little girl was
open and honest. Why can’t we be like a little child? Children just
set their hearts out there.
My grandchildren have taught me a
good deal about being a child. They love to laugh and create. One
summer afternoon we made biscuits together. Soon the flour was all over
the floor, the counter, and us. When we finished, one of them wanted
to decorate with sprinkles and birthday candles. I said, “Hon, we are
not making cake, we are making biscuits.” The children didn’t care. I
gave each one a ball of dough to create his masterpiece. We even lit
the candles and sang “Happy Birthday” to each one of us.
with my father when he was older and very sick made me think more about
the idea of child-like. Both he and my grandchildren being similar in
many ways: very dependent. Open and honest. No walls between them and
you. No reputation to try to uphold. They share love boldly. They
share their hearts freely. In thinking about my dad and my
grandchildren, I wonder if God intended for us to enter this world as a
child and leave it as a child? The question is, “How do we, during the
time in the middle, live our daily lives, when needing to be so much
Brennan Manning says in “Souvenirs of Solitude,”
that the “child” represents our authentic self. He says, “I am a unique
and radiant center of personal thought and feeling. Rather than living
a routine existence in mere conformity with the crowd, the emerging
child reminds me I have a face of my own, gives me the courage to be
myself, protects me against being like everybody else, and calls for
that living, vibrant, magnificent image of Jesus Christ that is within
me, waiting only to unfold and be expressed.” He also says that you
don't really share yourself until you share your feelings. That this is
the secret of love.
Father, Son, and Spirit, Your love
makes me want to be a little child again. I want to laugh and sing and
dance and run with You. Please give me a child-like faith with
enjoyment, dependence, and confidence in Your love. Believing it,
receiving it, and giving it away. Help me not be guarded, but love
openly and freely. Teach me again, I pray.