Jesus told us in Matthew 18:3 NIV, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What’s so great about being a kid; other than no responsibilities, no mortgage, and no quarterly taxes due? They have attributes that seem to adapt well in the kingdom of heaven. Children are innocent, trusting, meek, easily contented, loving, honest, non-judgmental, not prejudice, loving, and forgiving.
One characteristic that I have observed in children is how they live in the moment. It doesn’t matter where they are, or whom they are with, they become completely immersed into their surroundings and look for whatever fun may be hidden there. That ability amazes me. Talk about “mindfulness.” I struggle with just living in the moment. My mind is always wandering off somewhere. I no sooner sit down and I’m thinking about how soon I can stand up again. Shortly after entering a room, I’m looking for the exit signs. I worry if I’m at the right place at the right time and with the right people. Those unsettled thoughts rob me of peace. I watch kids connect with others and they just accept that they are at the right place at the right time and with the right people. They look for the adventure in their current circumstances with the people they are with. Life would much more enjoyable if we could just live in the moment that we are in.
Another trait children possess is the fact that they generally don’t worry about the future or fret about the past. They are usually too busy squeezing out every drop of life from their day to have any time for worrying. They live in the land of “Que Sera, Sera. Whatever will be, will be.” Jesus told us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV). “Don’t worry” is a command from Jesus, not a suggestion. There are no exceptions; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He simply demands, “don’t do it.” Children seem to have the whole not worrying thing under control.
A beautiful quality that especially very young children have is the genuine acceptance of people. They seem to be blind to other’s flaws. They don’t notice physical disabilities, skin color, disfigurements, old-age, hair styles or the lack of hair. Even if they do notice, they never judge you for it. Once my grandson was looking at the back of my head and noticed my bald spot. He quizzically asked, “Pap Pap, who cuts your hair?” I answered, “Aunt Deb. Why?” He rubbed my head and exclaimed concerningly, “I think she’s cutting it too short!” It always astonishes me to see a child smile and look lovingly at the face of someone we would consider just plain ugly, without any hesitation at all. My prayer is to see others as Jesus sees them, through eyes of love.
Jesus told us,” “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37 NIV). Children seem to have an easier time forgiving than adults. They don’t usually hold on to a grudge for more than a couple minutes.
Being childlike is not the same as being childish; which is the unpleasant qualities of silliness and immaturity. The apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11 NKJV). The most beautiful virtue of children is their humility. They’re not inhibited by the fear of what someone may think about them. They possess the profound confidence that is only found in humility.
I want to have the simple faith of a child. The kingdom of heaven operates on it. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6 NIV). Children boldly make their requests known to their parents. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Heb. 4:16 NLT). They expect an answer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14 NIV). They trust in their parents, even if they don’t understand, become frustrated, or confused with the answer they receive. Jesus cried out, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Walt Disney said, “That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” When it comes to the positive childlike qualities that give unlimited access to the kingdom of heaven, I want to be a spiritual Peter Pan and declare, “I won’t grow up! I’ll never grow up! Not me. Not I. Not me!”