Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17 NLT
Last Christmas I was honored to receive one of the most loving and tender gifts of my life. The gift was the joy of watching myself as a little girl. My parents took reels and reels of 8mm movies of me from before my first birthday until my daddy’s death when I was ten. I have carried and moved them from home to home over the decades. Aware of the steel box that has lived in multiple closets and garages, my sons’ hearts were stirred to convert them to a flash drive for computer or television viewing. I was deeply touched in so many ways.
I have watched them over and over again since that morning. Each time I see something new. I have been awestruck in seeing how Mommy and Daddy loved me so – teaching me to walk, go potty, brush my teeth, comb my hair, swim, dance and play. I gazed in amazement at the film of Daddy kneeling beside my bed to teach me to pray and end by kissing the feet of Jesus on the cross. He then read me a story and warmly tucked me into my bed. There were amusement parks, friends at Halloween, extended family celebrations, swing sets and Easter egg hunts. I was blessed, provided for and protected in countless ways and truly beyond measure.
You may be asking – and rightfully so – how is this meaningful to you (and to me) today? The answer has not so much to do with the outpouring of love I was graced to see from my parents, but what I saw first-hand in myself as a child. For there was a precious naïveté that I seem to have left behind in exchange for becoming a responsible adult. It was as if I was seeing Jesus some two thousand years ago with a child on his lap (is it me?) looking directly at the Karen of today saying, “Anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a child will not enter it”.
Where is the invitation for me (you) here? What is there in me (you) that is yearning to be reclaimed? Here is the sweetness I was gifted to see in those videos. I was innocent, curious and genuine. I was teachable, open and accepting. I appeared to wonder about most everything. I didn’t try to grasp or attain. I simply received whatever was given. Fully present though too young to call it such.
Here is what I did not see. I did not see worry, confusion or burden. I did not see restlessness, fear or attempt to control. There was no inner critic or wilfulness. This had not come yet. I had not yet experienced sadness or sorrow or death in its myriad flavors. All that came later in time.
Thomas Merton speaks of the kingdom of God as a mysterious cosmic dance. He goes so far as to say “the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation”. And when do we catch a glimpse of this dance? “When we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts….at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values…”
Jesus tells us the kingdom of God is here. The fullness of God is already upon us if only we have eyes to see. Oh, to see with the eyes of a child! I know it to be true. My heart has been awakened. I am grateful. Deeply so.