I’ve just come back from a two-week stay in the country of Childhood. It’s a special place with its own unique culture.
The national flag is a well-loved blanket.
The national anthem is a rotating chorus of cries, whines, and laughs. A benevolent dictator runs the country, and bribery is not unheard of. Justice can be swift. But the citizens are cared for with the best that love can offer.
A visitor quickly learns that the casual mention of candy can become an instant obsession. Daily naps are required–so adults can have a chance rest. And you need a firm hand if you are going to hold a wobbly infant.
These observations are not merely cute. Jesus said we need to receive the Kingdom of God like a little child. So how exactly do children go through their days?
Children live in a timeless place
*They have short memories. They don’t hold grudges.
*They are more focused on the process than on the results of what they are doing.
*They don’t mind failing. They try again and again and again and again.
*They only worry about one day at a time. They don’t believe in making for tomorrow [so suggesting that a cookie be saved for another day holds no appeal]
They know who is boss [most of the time]
*They are utterly dependent on their parents for the day’s schedule. They don’t wake up and ask themselves “What am I going to do today?” They go downstairs for breakfast and find out what’s on the agenda.
**They look up a lot.
Their physical state makes a big difference
*They are grumpy when they are hungry.
*They are grumpy when they are wet.
*Too many sweets can turn them into a bouncy ball.
*They are grumpy when they are tired.
Simple pleasures are the best
*They love stories and songs.
*The sillier the better. They like to laugh.
*A cheap trinket lasts five minutes. But they can spend hours playing at the beach. They delight in primary materials–water, dirt, stones, the wind, birds, and blocks.
*They love to celebrate.
Life is learning
*Their days are one big discovery.
*They are curious, and are always asking why, but their parents often have to simplify the answer so they can grasp it.
*They imitate their parents and learn from them.
*They aren’t afraid to ask for help.
Other admirable charms
*They get up early.
*They love family time.
*They easily share their emotions. There’s never any doubt when they are happy and when they are sad.
*They say what they think, without pretense.
*They hate being apart from their parents.
*They get dirty a lot, and have to take a bath every day, but they don’t mind. Bath time is fun.
If I go back over this list, substituting myself as the child and God as the parent, I get a clearer picture of what Jesus meant when He told me to be like a child. Ask often, have fun, obey the boss, go with the flow, get clean, pay attention to the physical.
I tend to forget that last one. It’s easy for me to think that my physical state has nothing to do with my spiritual life. But there’s no solid wall between the two. One affects the other.
When I’m tired or hungry, I find that irritation and grumpiness and anger spring up like weeds. When I’m well-rested it’s much easier for me to be gracious and charitable, and experience the love and care my Father wants to give to me. No wonder one of His loving commands is to take a sabbath day of rest. As a wise pastor once said, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep.”
What about you? What aspect of being childlike do you need to develop?
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1
[adapted from the archives]