And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 18:3
I overheard some four and five-year-old children following their teacher in a familiar cheer. “Give me a J,” cheered the teacher. “J,” yelled the children. “Give me an “E,” encouraged the teacher. “E,” yelled the children. The teacher continued, “Give me an “S.” “S,” chorused the children. Their voices grew louder as the teacher led them to the final letters of “U” and “S.” Together they said J-E-S-U-S! With excitement rising, the teacher shouted, “What’s that spell?” A strange pause followed and one child finally answered, “I don’t know.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the innocence of the answer.
Kids are like that. They believe what you tell them, celebrate the simple joys of discovery and become excited when given new ideas and experiences. That is the joy of a childlike faith. Unfortunately, something happens between childhood and adulthood that changes everything. Expectations, pains, failures and disappointments enter the picture and the once joyous innocence of childhood becomes marred. Faith can slowly gives way to cynicism, and hearts that were once open and filled to overflowing become closed, cold and empty.
Jesus calls us, however, to return to a childlike faith. The late author Mike Yaconelli wrote of this “place all children know about.” “This voice of our childhood is the voice of wonder and amazement, the voice of God, which has always been speaking to us, even before we were born.” He then describes what happens when things change. “One sad day, we are aware of an absence. We can no longer hear the God-voice, and we are left with only silence–not a quiet silence, but a roaring silence.”*
Yaconelli suggested the reason we stopped hearing God’s voice was not because we wanted to stop hearing it, but that our lives became louder. I am convinced that children have an innate ability to hear the voice of God and it is that clarity which makes it easy to believe. As we go through life, other noise enters the scene and muffles the once-clear voice of God. Now we must spend the rest of our lives “clearing the air” in order to return to the simple clarity of our childhood.
Jesus invites us to come to Him as little children, eager to be with Him, to simply enjoy His presence. Today, take some time to remember the simple pleasures of childhood. Laugh out loud, sing too loud, lighten your step a little and remember Who waits to share this time with you.
Sometimes children say it the best. Consider this child’s prayer: “Dear God, I don’t ever feel alone since I found out about you.” Nora**
John 11:25-26; Romans 1:16, 10:4
*Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yaconelli. Nav Press Publishing. Colorado Springs, CO: 1998.
**Children’s Letters to God, The New Collection. Compiled by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall. Workman Publishing, 1991.