The Lord has blessed me with a Godly wife and four beautiful children. What a tremendous blessing it has been to watch my children grow from chubby balls of wonder into capable, and complex young adults. It is an awesome responsibility to “train a child in the way he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV). Sometimes I wonder if children are the ones who should be training us.
I have often thought about Jesus’ comments to His disciples when they were jockeying for positions of power. Jesus understands the pride that develops in the adult heart when we “mature.” In a teaching moment, He called a little child to stand in the midst of His disciples and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4, NIV) Why did Jesus say this? What important traits do we lose as we age?
My youngest daughter is currently in the first grade. To her, life is all about losing teeth, learning to read, and playing outside with friends. Any parent knows that children are all unique. To me raising children is kind of like gardening. God gives you a seed, and your privilege as a parent is to try to figure out what kind of plant that you have been given. All seeds are the same in that they must initially be planted in soil and watered. It is not until the plants start to emerge from the soil that you get your first glimpse as to what type of plant that God has blessed you with. I am certainly not a gardener, but I do know that some plants require direct sunlight and some require shade. I also know that some plants bloom in the spring and some plants bloom in the fall. Just like all plants start out as seeds, all plants will eventually grow, bloom, and produce more seeds if they are loved and properly cared for.
I wonder if one of the reasons that God created children is to help us remember how to live. Children don’t usually play politics. They appreciate simple things in life like getting a piece of candy, or playing a game with family or friends. Although they certainly have their bouts with sin just like adults =), they have an amazing way of bouncing back from setbacks. Children don’t seem to worry about past mistakes, and they certainly don’t fret over what is going to happen next year. Although their feelings can be easily hurt, they tend to forgive quickly and they don’t hold grudges. They look at the world with eyes of wonder, and learning is a most joyful task. They don’t seem to be bothered with outside appearances, and they are willing to give anyone a chance to be their friend.
So when do we start forgetting how to really live? I am definitely not suggesting that maturing is a bad thing, but I do wonder if we lose some important attributes as we age. Have you ever watched how children instantly change the environment in a retirement home? I have been blessed to visit a few local retirement homes with children over the years. It is amazing to watch how elderly people seem to come to life and “reconnect” with a part of themselves when a child approaches them and touches their hand, or simply speaks to them. The memories that I have of these heavenly interactions bring tears of joy to my eyes. I have not had the opportunity to be a grandfather yet, but I do know that there is a very special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom knows that adults need children just as much as children need loving adults.
That brings me to a final thought about child-like faith. Jesus said that the “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV) As a scientist, I understand this verse very well. I have been trained to look at the world through critical eyes, and to base all of my assumptions about the world on measurable data. I know in my head that it is not possible for men to be resurrected, but I know without a doubt in my heart that Jesus was raised from death. I know that He is calling all men to repent of their sin, and to accept His graceful offer of forgiveness and eternal life. History bears witness that the message of the cross is absolute Truth. How do you rationalize love? How do you explain forgiveness? How do you measure the value of relationships? These are all complex questions. Maybe if we stopped trying to rationalize everything, and just admitted that there are deep truths that we will never fully understand in this life, we will start to see the real world again, like we did when we were children.