"People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, "Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it" (Luke 18:15-17)
Every Wednesday, I teach CCD to 6th graders--discussing God, faith, Jesus, etc. One of my hopes is helping them to find bible passages on their own. I recently gave them a test, in which I selected random passages throughout the bible that they had to find. One of the passages that I came across while looking through the bible was the above passage. This passage has been on my mind off and on during the past week or so.
What does it mean to accept the kingdom of God like a child?
I was looking at old photos of myself in contemplating this passage, imagining myself as I was so many years ago. The person I see in the photos is still the same me, but I am so different at the same time. Gone are the days where I can tenderly hold a cabbage-patch doll or dress up as a sheep and be thought of as cute (well, I dunno, maybe not. I can think of stranger things).
That wide-eyed smile which took up all of my energy to muster for the camera--I stare at that picture and find myself baffled. There is sheer contentment to hold my baby sister. I smile for the sheer joy of smiling. There is no pretext, no ulterior motive. I'm happy, take my picture!
That inner radiance, that pure innocence, wears out in the process of growing up. The reality of life hits home. That young face becomes marred by pimples and excessive scratching. It has felt too often the touch of fresh tears. It has witnessed the trials of the adult world and grew ill at its sight.
I visited the Philippines a few years ago and saw children 5, 6, 7 years old, scratching on doors begging for money. I wonder if they'll even have a memory upon entering adult age of what it meant to be a child.
I am very different from that age, but I am still the same.
I asked my CCD kids to imagine what it would be like to be in heaven.
"There won't be killin' and stuff like that, ya know?"
"There'll be angels and friends and lots of Chinese food--my grandpa"
"We'll be in the clouds and we'll fly around and won't have to think about nothin'."
"I think heaven is where we all love one another, where there's no hate, we just get along like God wants us to."
I think as we grow older, our ability to dream big, to imagine possibilities beyond rational thought, diminishes. We become more "realistic", more stoic in affect. We are afraid to hope, because we have felt too often the pain of disappointment.
I dream of a world free of hate and violence. I dream of a people full of life, who smile because it feels great to smile. A world where we are not afraid to love one another as God loves us. A world free from oppression and hunger. A world in which everyone can feel safe.
Is that too much of a childhood fantasy? Is that too much to ask?