“13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.” (Matthew 19:13-15)
There are many different ways of unpacking this truth that Jesus shares with us. We could liken it to the beatitudes and discuss how attributes such as meekness and humility rather than power and strength are the traits of the godly. We could compare it to Jesus’s own humble beginnings. He was born as a defenseless infant in a manger and presented at the temple for the price of the poor. Jesus was not the conqueror his people expected any more than a child would be. Rather than discussing those points, though, as the father of a two-year-old and soon to be father of another boy, I’d just like to share some observations of my experience with those to whom the kingdom of God belongs.
Tripp is easily fascinated. As you can see from the picture, Tripp really enjoys seeing horses. He spent all morning Tuesday at the airport marveling at all the airplanes. He loves playing with all sorts of trivialities whether they are keys, utensils, pens, or bottles. In all things, he expresses his joy and excitement, and he never ceases to be amazed by all around him.
While it seems trite, (I mean, how many times can we truly be excited by a cardboard box?) shouldn’t we, as adults, be easily fascinated too?
When’s the last time you stopped to stare at the wonder of an airplane? Think about it. Millions of hours of human intelligence and labor went into the development and creation of these incredible machines. Then, stop to consider a horse. How God created this animal so perfectly designed to run. Each fiber of its body perfectly crafted in both beauty and function. Now, imagine the creation we don’t see. The depths of the ocean, the far off galaxies, Heaven and all its angels. We are surrounded by wondrous miracles, but we rarely embrace them with child-like wonder.
Another unmistakable trait of children, and especially Tripp, is their boundless energy. Tripp spent the entire day at the horse race climbing up the metal railing, climbing down, and repeating. His only breaks came when my wife or I would pick him up to see the horses walk through the crowd before the race or to sprint around the track. The amount of enduring energy he displayed was unfathomable for an adult. And yet, it’s a daily occurrence for him.
Could you imagine having that stamina as an adult? To be so curious and so excited about exploring the wonderful creation all around that you don’t stop moving for a second and yet never grow tired. Personally, it’s hard to even remember having that type of energy as a child. I went for a run yesterday morning (because Tripp came into our room to wake us up at 5:45 a.m.), and my joints ached all day. And it was a short run. As adults, our bodies just cannot hold up the way a child’s can.
But, we will experience that vitality again for eternity if we share this final trait – a child’s purity of heart. Tripp has genuine joy at seeing and spending time with his loved ones, and is that not the essence of God? If God is love, and love can only exist through relationship, then how we treat each other either reflects or veils the presence of God. Tripp continually puts his heart out on his sleeve, risking heartbreak each of the fifty times he asks me for more donuts. Seriously, though, despite constant disappointments and failures on my part throughout a day, he’s undeterred in offering his full heart and soul into every interaction we have. He is present, even when I’m distracted. This isn’t to say he never acts out. Sometimes he doesn’t listen, and he insists on finding new items to use as bats on our poor, old hound. But, he is genuinely remorseful when he learns of his mistake.
Let’s be realistic. Children aren’t perfect. They’re about as flawed and helpless as any human being can be in a worldly sense, but that only serves to illuminate how flawed and helpless we all are in a heavenly sense. We cannot earn salvation through our own merit. But, we can offer love freely and openly, despite the frequent wounds that may result, and when we err, we can go to our Heavenly Father with a heart full of repentance. And, unlike Tripp’s dad, His wisdom, grace, and mercy are perfect.