At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:1-3 (English Standard Version)
As we continue our Lenten journey, this post comes out of a conversation my wife and I were having beforehand. We both expressed our dismay at how we as a culture expose our children to too much, too soon-making them grow up too quickly. And what we expose our children to, many times they’re not emotionally ready to receive it. Look at the stuff they’re exposed to in the media: you can devote a whole blog to that-forget a post. Today’s youth are bombarded with more sex and violence via television, video games, the Internet, and music (videos) than prior generations. And before you call me an old prude pining for the Victorian Era, please note I came up during the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s.
Our children have more thrust on them today-despite our technological wonders designed to “improve” life. We push our children to study harder and more; not giving their growing minds the time to have mindless play. We isolate and insulate our children with video games, computer time, and television; whereas a day outdoors or at the local library (with actual books) would work wonders. We adults live fast paced lives and in turn expect our kids to do likewise, consume like we do, and live as if there was no tomorrow.
Then we wonder why our youth are so jaded. We hear our little ones already developing a “been there, done that” attitude. Our kids are now seeing therapists and are on psych meds, where once only adults did this. We see teen suicides as youth become fatalistic about the future where they’re victims of the lie of “there’s nothing else left”. Obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks-once “adult” impairments-now creep below the age 18 line. Our children are emotionally scarred, spiritually bankrupt, morally bereft, apathetic towards their fellow man and world, and wary of the future.
Sounds much like us, doesn’t it? In fact, our children are a barometer of how we as a culture are doing. And I daresay, we’re not doing that well. If we look at the above text, we’ll see that we have lost that “child” in us. We’ve become old and jaded. We’ve become frightened fogies that have disconnected from the life inside us. Many of us grew up too quickly, and now are trying to recapture some vestige of “youth” before it’s too late.
When Jesus in the above text speaks of becoming “like children,” he didn’t mean that we become childish in our attitudes, catering to some “inner child” inside us and acting like overgrown spoiled brats. To go about wanting our own way and imposing it on others, no matter who or what we hurt.
No, Jesus calls us to be childlike. You see, being childlike means that we have a sense of awe and wonder about our universe-always wanting to discover and do new things. We are open to things, not throwing up ego-driven defense mechanisms and facades. We trust the Divine that all is good-regardless what comes our way. That we’re willing to learn all the time; that we don’t know everything; nor that we’re right all the time. That we enjoy life just for enjoyment’s sake, to play sometimes and yes, be silly at time.
You see, it’s that childlike behavior that keeps us connected to the Divine and to our Universe. If you look at our greatest geniuses like Albert Einstein, you’ll see that he had a childlike curiosity about him. It’s this same behavior that keeps us open to each other and to the greater Universe; we’re not imprisoned by prejudices and tired traditions. The Divine can speak with us when we have that childlike openness as well. In turn, we too can be the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
In the above photo, you see my six-year old son, Carrington at SciFest at Rutgers University looking at a telescope. This will help keep his sense of wonder alive throughout his life. That even as Carrington matures as an adult, he’ll still have that childlike spirit that Jesus espoused and encouraged.
Let’s not lose the child in us-whether we’re adults or children. For when child is lost, we lose so much in us that we might as well be dead. And last I heard, the same Jesus quoted in the above text came so that we may have the abundant life. And part of the abundant life is being childlike.
Grace and Peace.