Matthew 18:3: “And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
A story passed through Quaker circles about a young child and his baby sister. The boy’s parents overheard him whispering to baby Sis. He said, “Tell me all about God. I’m starting to forget.”
Daughter Annie and grandbaby Ava stayed with us for a week in June. When I picked up Ava and looked into her eyes, she looked straight back at me. Her pupils widened as she scanned my face, but she took in my appearance without judgment. She studied me with clearness, without prior assumptions. Her innocence gave me a sense of open horizons, of a cloudless blue sky.
Ava trusted us to feed, clothe and clean her, to give her comfort, and to encourage her when she tried out new skills. Surprises, hunger and waking up alone made her cry. But as soon as we met her needs, tears dried up. She smiled and did a happy dance when she greeted the next person she saw. Fears and the memory of discomfort didn’t stick to her.
I can see the great benefit of becoming “like little children”, but Matthew 18:3 puzzles me. How do we return to a childlike state? We spend a long time learning to act like responsible adults. Can we pretend that past troubles, current troubles, possible future troubles don’t bother us? Can we live from moment to moment in clear wonder? Can we trust in the goodness of God’s plan for us?
Perhaps the answer lies in trying to see the world with fresh eyes. New possibilities open when I wait to pass judgment on a person or situation. Or give myself room to adjust my attitude. An uncle always greets me with a jibe, a poke at my self-esteem. I took offense and avoided him when possible. But one day, it occurred to me that he was just inviting me to play a game. The next time he insulted me, I returned the favor. He grinned: I had met him on his terms.
Anxious, painful situations can lead to insights when I stop resisting experience. Speechmaking took on another flavor when I focused on the interaction between my pulse and the audience response. Flopping became a vivid field of discovery.
Pleasant moments can develop from discomfort. I trimmed the bushes in our yard last week. After a half hour, my shoulders ached. Thorns had scratched my forearms. Mosquitos feasted on my calves. I looked up and noticed the crepe myrtle at the end of the driveway. Fuchsia blooms stood out against a backdrop of green leaves. Well-being flooded my mind. I no longer minded my condition as I became immersed in the beauty of the flowers.