“Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3 (WEB)
God must have a sense of humor.
I have read so many commentaries on what Jesus meant for us to hear in this passage. All of which have been written by pious men. And none of which get this right.
I don’t think anyone that hasn’t been intimately involved with the careful raising and care of little children understands the nature of being a child…Unless they are still intimately connected with their own inner child.
I can give you my own insights into what Jesus means here, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four…
Children are tireless. They know they hold no power of their own in this world, and believing that their parents do, they set upon imploring their parents to make things happen. Even in situations where they themselves are now mature and capable of making those things happen on their own.
For example, my six year old has reached the stage where he doesn’t want to exercise his own power and abilities. “I’m thirsty!!!” he shouts, demands, of me. “Um… Water comes out of the tap. You could start there you know…” I notice him glaring at me as the words pour out of my mouth. That’s not what he wanted to hear. He wanted me to do for him something I painstakingly taught him to do for himself. “I’m THIRSTY!!!” As if I didn’t hear his request the first time. And the Spirit whispers to my heart: “this is soooo you in your prayer life as of late….”
At the same time, children also tend to have far more confidence than their current abilities warrant. As my six year old and I find ourselves at an impasse in the next room, I look over at the kitchen sink and see my 3 year old has pulled up a chair, turned on the tap, and is now gleefully making a splashing mess. He’s soaked, the floor and counters are now slick and wet. Before I can even get out of my chair, he has slipped off of his chair and fallen to the floor. As I run to comfort my toddler and inspect him for injuries, the Spirit whispers to my heart “this is you too…”
Being a child is hard. It not only requires constant interaction with our caregivers in life, it demands that we are willing to ask, to listen and take risks. Children are always learning new things, new tasks. They don’t really know what it means to have a comfort zone. The whole world is their comfort zone, and they can’t wait to explore it. They very rarely appear graceful in this whole process of learning, and a good parent knows that there is no expectation of perfection. A child may expect perfection of themselves, but a good parent never asks that of them.
Being a child is hardest when we deny that we know how to meet some of our own needs. A good parent will not do for a child what that child is capable of doing themselves.
A child is ever walking the line between infancy– where it can do nothing for itself, and adulthood– where, you know, you are expected to do everything yourself.
Given the choice, I’m fine with being a child. This may not come as a surprise to you, but I don’t actually know how to adult very well. Especially when it comes to the weightier matters in life. But, that’s ok, because God never expects perfection from His children. Instead, He gives us the freedom to learn by disaster and grow through our humorous displays of willfulness. God is the kind of parent I want to be with my own children. And it has taken becoming more like my children in my relation to God to grow into the kind of parent He is.