I remember fondly the birth of my 4th (and last) child Daniel. He was an emergency C-Section. Shortly after he entered this world in a rather traumatic fashion: rather like Macbeth’s nemesis Macduff, about whom it was bewitchingly prophesied that he should beware…yet no man born of woman would harm Macbeth – blah, blah, blah – then we discover that Macduff was “untimely ripped from his mother’s womb”… well, shortly after Daniel’s untimely ripping, I found myself sitting in a rocking chair next to the precautionary incubator holding my precious infant and gently singing my version of the Oak Ridge Boys’ hit “Thank God for Kids.” You know how it goes: “Thank God for kids there’s magic for awhile; a special kind of sunshine in a smile…” I actually got to hold him before his mother did. I still love that song.
As Proverbs 20:11 states, “Every child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” There is the other side of the coin a couple of chapters later, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” (Proverbs 22:15a). As I thought about this blog, my ponderings led me to contemplate the difference between childlike and childish. I am some of both depending on the day.
Early in my educational career, I remember having a poster on my classroom wall that illustrates this well. It was a black and white enlarged photograph of a whole bunch of people, mostly adults, protesting the integrative strategy of school bussing in the South back in the Sixties. The faces of those adults glimmered with anger, fear, prejudice, outrage, and multiple other negative emotions. Naturally, blacks were on one side and whites on the other – all had picket signs reiterating their voiced indignations. Right down in front of that photo were two little girls – possibly not even school-age yet. One was white and one was black. They were holding hands. The caption of the poster was something like, “When left to themselves, children get along.” That poster imagery just might sum up childlike versus childish.
A concept that also comes to mind is that it is okay to be a child; but it isn’t okay to stay a child. We are expected to grow, develop, mature, etc. It struck me that children DON’T: hold grudges (very long); wear masks (very often); hide their pain (they cry a lot and loudly); always want to share (especially a new book or toy). On the other hand children often DO: show delight (in whatever is new and interesting); give frequent hugs (to almost anyone nice); enjoy cuddling (with mommies and grandmas); hold tight to new/special things (their stuff); take joy in sharing (just not always the first day of ownership or the absolute most special possession); respond well to love (safe and warm).
Notice Mark 10:13-16…“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” What strikes me most about that passage is that the children gladly crawled up in this strange man’s lap and let him put his hands on them. Trusting little folks, weren’t they?
Obviously Mark, through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, is trying to tell us that we need to be childlike. Some other passages repeat this idea:
Matthew 11:25…At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
Matthew 18:2…Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
1 Corinthians 13:11…When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
In just those few statements, God’s love letter explains the difference in my acting as a child and in a childish manner. The first is anticipated, even encouraged. The latter shown for the negative folly that it is. As John the beloved stated: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:10)
In 3 John 4, God sums up how he feels about children or even about us as we act in a childlike, but not childish, way: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Though often embarrassed by my own childishness, I enjoy the times when I know it feels good and right to act on the novelty, enthusiasm, passion, and frolic of being a little like a child. I'm a little bit okay with acting like a little bit.
- ▼ 2010 (26)