Moving Forward by Becoming a Kid

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He 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 18:2 – 5

I grew up loving folk music, and even sang a lot of it with a small group through college.   One of my favorites was honestly one I didn’t quite grasp at that tender age of young 20’s, but has recently resonated with me more and more – a famous Bob Dylan lyric: “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Most of the 20-somethings I knew and know are pretty sure they know what they want, and what is real and true, and what in life is to be discarded. Even some 60-somethings, and many in between.

But now watching from a much different age, and watching my young 1-year old grand-ish son (my step-daughter’s son), and some of the young kids who live near my house – they discard nothing.  Nothing presented to them (well, perhaps except nap time and medicine) does not evoke wonder and curiosity and a chance to explore and learn. Or, to express that more positively – pretty much everything they encounter leads them to wonder and curiosity and awe and exploration.

My best friend, the photographer, was the same.  She never lost her sense of play and wonder and curiosity; she was fearless and fun and full of laughter.  She used to chuckle when she pointed out that my sense of curiosity rivaled hers, but for different things – she loved photographing people, mine was more about nature and landscapes.  She would laugh at my own constant parade of questions about “what if?” (I know none of you have EVER heard me ask that…! 😏). My daughter says my constant statement while she was growing up was “I’m gonna go look that up.”

In other words – over time, I have learned to embrace the mystery of everything I don’t understand, and find new wonder in things I discover (or re-discover). Which is pretty much everything. I feel so much younger now. And lighter, if I’m honest.

Without diminishing the almighty faithful God we serve, I believe the kingdom of God is best seen through the openness of a child, and I think that’s what Jesus was getting at.  We grown-ups add a bunch of big words and picky rules, exclusions and legalisms, filters of a human nature that I don’t think God ever intended for His people – money, human affirmation, power, being “right”. Some of us prefer not to let anyone into our church circle that doesn’t share our rigid belief (all sides). But the little kids see the kingdom for what it is – God’s loving gift to us, a place He wants to be with us always.  A garden. A playground. Another spirit child of God, no judgement. A place of wonder and acceptance and love. And the little ones will welcome it the way they welcome a carnival or a snow day or a day at the beach, finding broken shells on the sand. Even those are full of wonder and beauty.

If we grown-ups don’t feel the same way about the kingdom of God, we’ve most likely missed the point. And if we’re presenting the Kingdom to the little ones the wrong way, we are hindering them. 

So what if we left every church meeting and worship service and mission opportunity with that radiant sense of gratitude and awe on our faces?  What if, this year, we stepped out in  joy and humbleness and wonder?  What if we travelled that path, and led others to that place to encounter the Living God… especially the littlest ones?