Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Mathew 18:3
Stories constantly weave themselves around us and oftentimes they reveal some profound truths about ourselves that we are blissfully unaware of. One such tale spun out in the playground of the high-rise apartment building that I once lived in. My attention was caught with a scuffle that had suddenly erupted among a group of children playing a ball game. As I watched, a little girl, probably four years old, stepped up boldly to challenge a boy who was bullying her young friends . As expected, she was physically pushed aside and scraped her knees as she landed on the hard concrete. She let out a loud wail, and her mother ran towards her and carried her home. The scene was common enough and I forgot about it till the next evening. Mother and child had come down, and the play group – the bully and the aggrieved – were already in the field. The child tried to make a dash for the spot but her mother held her back. Inspite of advice, persuasion and warning, the child broke free and ran towards her friends, happy to be part of her playgroup and completely at ease with the boy who had pushed her. The mother stood watching, frowning in silent disapproval .
The incident tugged at my conscience. There was something distinctly deficient in adult decision making when compared to a child’s. Forgiveness and bonding seem instinctive with children and we, as parents often tutor them in the opposite direction, ensuring that enemy lines are drawn and distances are purposefully created, In Mathew 11: 25 Jesus praises God the Father for revealing truth and knowledge to little children even while He kept it away from the wise and learned. This is a perfect example of what children can authoritatively teach adults.
The famous poet Wordsworth echoes this philosophy in the oft quoted line ‘The child is the father of Man’ and he pursues this line of thought in his beautiful Ode to Immortality which poignantly describes life’s journey in terms of a steady walk away from the Divine light. The infant come from God’s abode ‘trailing clouds of glory;’ the child perceives the light but is in the shadow of ‘the prison house’—our life on earth; and finally as adults ‘Man perceives it die away and fade into the light of common day.’
One often wonders what we lost as we distanced ourselves from the ‘clouds of glory’ that marked our childhood. Life’s journey, flagged by competition and one-upmanship, gives us an entirely different set of tools to carve out our success stories. At a certain stage we become the masters of our destiny, and if things do not go according to the plan we have set for ourselves, we create Plan B and ensure that our plans work the way we envisaged it.
Very often, children show us ways that we have completely discarded in favour of more pragmatic and worldly-wise solutions. Consider the trust a child places in the parent. There are times when parental decisions lead to a complete change in children’s lives. Be it as commonplace as a transfer to a different country, or as disturbing as a divorce decision, children’s lives are turned upside down. And yet they trust completely. In small steps they accept the altered circumstances- but they never lose trust.
Forgiveness, faith and trust— these are some sterling values that we could imbibe from the children we bring up. How far do we accept the path that our beloved Father has charted out for us with loving care? How much are we prepared to trust our future in the Lord’s hands especially when things are not going our way?
Luke 18:16 categorically states that the kingdom of God belongs to children. But Jesus does not end His statement there. He goes on to say something that is deeply significant to all of us. Anybody else who comes into the Kingdom has to come like a child. In other words, we have to come the way children come—simple, open, trusting, unpretentious, dependent, and humble. And if we don’t come like that, we have little chance of entering His abode.