Childish and Childlike

My friend, Troy and I read Mark 10 recently. This chapter has a lot of content. You may remember a particular passage, here presented in the NIV:

13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

We discussed what it means to receive God’s kingdom like a little child. The Message version gives several clues.  In the wording there  it states, “accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child”. The passage itself implies acceptance and simplicity as important. In our conversation we generated the following lists of attributes of children that contribute to our being like a little child:

  • trust
  • simplicity
  • gratitude
  • recognition of need
  • joy
  • sense of adventure

I will briefly review my view of receiving the Kingdom as a child.  At this point, I am only  examining  my own thinking and behavior.

Trust is foundational for acceptance.  If the Kingdom of God advances continually in the time-space, conceptual space, spiritual space, relational space, circumstantial space and geographic space that I occupy, I am faced with a choice as to whether I accept or  resist its advance.  My choice to accept or reject is related to my ability to trust God.  Is what happens to me a conspiracy of the universe against me?  Is what happens God’s will?  Is what happens coincidental or accidental? Am I a victim, a recipient, or a bystander?  Each of these stances I could take reflects my view of the universe and how I trust or not trust God.

Simplicity implies lack of artifice, lack of baggage, lack of cost-counting.  Do I make decisions based on the merits of the actions implied by that decision, or based on a calculation which measures the level of reaction other people will have to my decision, the costs and benefits of my decision and the long term gains available to me? Is something to be done for the intrinsic merit or worth of the action?

Troy reminded that a simple and trusting manner in which to live in this world is with gratitude.  I know that I have much to be thankful for in my life.  It could be that living with gratitude is even more to the point than being thankful.  These concepts may be accepted as interchangeable, but it may be that gratitude is a disposition, an attitude that I put on as a way of life, not just an acknowledgment to another person that I am thankful for some thing in particular. I admit that not all children are grateful, but if you are like me you can probably relate a story about gratitude that involved a young child and a general view of life that included joy and thankfulness on a continual basis.

Being able to admit my need is very challenging. I want to be able to figure things out for myself rather than asking someone else to assist me.  In the simplicity and trust of a child, admitting need is part of the package. Personal pride and my own abilities hamper my willingness to ask for help.  How often do I forget that asking for help blesses others who are able to meet my need.

Joy, a general sense of delight and pleasure with the world around me, is another characteristic we have identified as childlike.  While not all circumstances are pleasant, each day bring an opportunity for joy.  Or does it?  I am not suggesting that my list of childlike characteristics are meant to be presented to the reader as a to-do list. I know that all of these factors are measures of childlikeness, but may not be easily learned or adopted behaviors.  It could be that all of these are reflections of a life lived in recognition and union with God and therefore we want to seek that union and the others will follow.  Of, could it be that when we are joyful we are entered into the kingdom?

A sense of adventure, the state of being in which every stone, every doorway, every sound and gust of wind hints at something more; clues to a hidden world in which each moment brings mystery, anticipation, hope and tension.  Adventure on the road and in the kitchen are both similar in that as we take the next step toward our destination, we are carried away by our own desire to be intrigues, amazed with and in awe of life.

I am comfortable in knowing that there are many who may read this who have other views, based on their own understanding and experience.  I will continue to make space in my own life to reflect on my attitudes and behaviors, at times wondering about the Kingdom of God and my proximity to it.  I long for God’s voice calling, “Hey, kid, come on in.”

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