Like Little Children

The church's backyard was turned into a small playground for three days, with excited shrieks and squeals of happy children. We just concluded a few days of Summer Bible School and every time it was time to load up the church van for the ride home, there were many reluctant feet who still wanted to jump, run and skip. I could understand. Not only did they make new friends, studied the Bible, do interesting crafts and play, but they also had fun while getting to know their Creator and His purpose for them.

Children's Day was almost a month ago. Precisely, thirty days from today, which makes it June 1st. This tells me that this piece has been in writing for that long time. Somehow, with the children being on vacation, I couldn't sit down long enough to muster some thoughts and put them down in writing. Instead, I have been busy doing a tour of the playgrounds with them, snatching their bikes from them and riding off, patching knee scrapes, and doing rounds of changing and washing of their dirty clothes.

When I was in Korea, Children's Day was on May 5th. It consisted of a lot of happy, excited children and some over-zealous parents and some who are mildly so, buying presents, the latter group only doing for the reason that they don't want their children to feel left out. Aside from that, some special activity should be in the offing--- a trip to Everland (an amusement park) or some water park. My husband and I saw ourselves as excited as the children (and broke, too) every time that day came around.

But Children's Day in Russia is quieter. Or maybe, it's just me, the foreigner. Well, I can understand the difference from both countries. It hasn't been long when people have started to see children as blessing and not as burden in this vast land. After communism fell, life was very hard. And the more children, the harder it must have been. I am a spectacle with my brood--- all four of them--- especially to old people, every time I go out.  It's almost like I committed some sin by having that many children. (Maybe my offense is flaunting. I like to show my children off. 😊) But I have since met young couples who want to have many children or who love children and want to raise them.

Children are a blessing. I have found this out long before I had my own. I worked as a missionary in Korea, and spent most of my active hours with them. At one time, I even decided (before I met my loving husband)I not to get married, but adopt a few and raise them up myself.

Well, I have long realized that children are excellent teachers. They taught me how to enjoy each moment. They made me derive so much pleasure and fun from the simplest and littlest of things. They made me laugh, get on my silly side, dream wild and free, work hard, get curious and ask questions and, well, have a life--- one that's good and rich. I'll always be grateful to God for them, whether they are mine or not.

Some time ago, people have no idea who children are. Well, we can't blame them because even with all the research and information that we have now, some people still have this archaic idea of children. They were treated like mini-adults. They work, they do almost all that adults do. Here's a fact.

"Until the 17th century in Europe, there was no concept of "childhood". Instead, children were simply thought of as miniature adults. They were assumed to be subject to the same needs and desires as adults, to have the same vices and  virtues as adults, and to warrant no more privileges than adults. They were dressed the same as adults, and their work hours were the same as adults. Children also received the same punishments for misdeeds. If they stole, they were hanged; if they did well, they could achieve prosperity, at least so far as their station in life or social class would allow. "
(Aries, 1962; Acocella, 2003; Hutton, 2004 as cited by R.S. Feldman, Development Across the Life Span, 2006).

Now, we know better. That is, if we do try to understand them. However, it is still very much common that many people don't and don't even try to. It is sad to see children being treated in an offhand manner, sometimes bordering on disrespect, like kids are just pure nuisance or like some pet dog or something. They are treated without affection or compassion, or worst, like they don't have brains. It is to these people's loss because the Son of Man who walked in our world said this of children:

And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3, NIV)

This teaching of Jesus is so against our arrogant selves, who tends to think of ourselves better than anybody, much more that of little children. We think we know better and are better.

But when Jesus' disciples, who were striving among themselves to be the greatest, asked Him, they were stumped with His answer.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. (Matthew 18:1-5)

Evidently, Jesus already had told his adult followers that to accept and welcome children in His name is His desire for them to do. But in the next chapter, an incident happened that upset Jesus that He had to apparently rebuke them in their face.

Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13,14)

My, how bull-headed can we get? However, even unaware, we, mostly parents, can stop our children from coming to God and from taking part in His kingdom. How?

My children enjoy the Sabbath and being in church in fellowship with other believers and learning and knowing about God, really makes the day special for them. But there was a time when I was physically, but in a huge way, spiritually apathetic in making it to church, having no desire at all to face people, and most of all, God. I was in a huff over some issues. And instead of bringing them over to God, I wanted to sulk, blaming Him for it.

But as the Sabbath drew on, I saw Angelika mark the calendar everyday, telling me after she was done of how excited she was that Sabbath was coming and that she could not wait for it to come. I felt my heart squeezed. Then, as the days wore on, I asked myself who am I to stop them from going to God?

So that Sabbath, I put on my best clothes, as my children waited for me. They usually dress themselves up all by themselves, except for the baby, and to the church we went. Later on, God talked to me through His word and I was glad I came. It is not my place, whatever is my level of relationship with God, to interfere with His relationship with them. In fact, I have a responsibility to point them to Him.

Maybe you are indifferent with religion or any spiritual matter, or just plain uninterested, but being a human being includes having a spiritual life, as well. What do think will fill that part of your kid's life if it's empty now? Children will grow without a moral compass, or simply put, without knowing what's right or wrong, nothing to guide him in his life. Yes, he may grow successful in his field or career, but may have problems with integrity, honesty or maintaining relationships for he has never learned it early in life. In fact, the world teaches the opposite-- whatever feels good, do it-- doesn't matter if you step on other people or violate God's moral law.

So, unaware, we may be leading our children off on a path that is deleterious to them. This warning of Jesus may be for us who intentionally leaves empty the spiritual vacuum in our children, and which, may be filled up with who-knows-what.

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6)

He adds further...

"Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:14)

Let us not treat our children with contempt by neglecting that space that God made for Him alone. As He has said, the kingdom of heaven is for them and for people like them.

As for us, we have plenty to learn from these little children. So, what is it like to be like them?

Here are some of their admirable traits:

  • Their brutal honesty. As a woman (and a mom), I can always depend on my children to tell me the truth whether I look good on something or I'm getting fat. Haha. They tell me as is.
  • Their simple, unaffected faith. Ah, this is what Jesus was talking about when He said we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless we become like children. Children's faith is not complicated with a lot of theories and philosophies, but no-fuss and a wholly devoted one.
  • Their carefree, positive attitude. Last sabbath, our pastor at our local church talked about the little boy who shared his lunch with Jesus and witnessed a miracle, which more than 5,000 people was fed (John 6). I was caught by what he said when he pointed out that there may be other people who brought their lunch, but instead of sharing they were stopped by the impossibility of sharing their little lunch with another and much more with so many hungry people around. The disciples alone were very worried. Who could ever imagine that the whole crowd would be fed? That's the difference between adults and children. We worry too much, but they move even with the little that they have. My children have solutions to dilemmas that may be too simplistic, but because they believe it's possible, then it becomes possible. Perhaps, even the boy didn't imagine feeding such a crowd, but initially just wanted to share it with Jesus, who unselfishly shared His time and affection with them. And we know the rest of the story. From the little boy's lunch of two fish and fives loaves of bread a big crowd ate and there were even leftovers. And this also teaches me that God moves the whole universe to aid us when we wholly commit to move, especially to bless others.
  • Their affectionate nature. Having four children, I never go in a day without hugs and kisses and i-love-you's. My children make sure of that. Children thrive on love and love to love and are not afraid to show it. The world would be a better place if we cultivate warmth and affection... and be brave to show it. No one would go around lonely and without love. God commands us to love each other, be kind and tenderhearted. I often go easy on one of my kids who commits an offense, because the others often plead with me not to be harsh and punitive. Children hate seeing someone suffer. But they brighten up and blossom in an environment of love, even if it's just a group hug.
  • Their humility. Should I say more? They take orders, they follow often without complaints and they obey.
Cultivating these traits is not easy when we have grown to a world that teaches us differently. Yet, look at Jesus as He sets a child in our midst and hear Him say, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3).

With heaven's help, we can do it.

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