As a teacher, I get to observe children a lot. And I know it's become a bit of a cliché, but the whole teaching/learning thing really does go both ways. I am constantly learning from the children that I'm supposed to be teaching. And I understand well why Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus calls us to be childlike. But why? There are many things about children that we can disregard. Things like tantrums, selfishness, immaturity, lack of wisdom... but there are also many things about children that we should seek after. I'm going to talk about eight of them. Four in this blog, and four in the next.
Firstly, children are adventurous. Their imaginations are wild and so easily stimulated. A walk across the backyard quickly becomes a perilous trek along an ancient, rickety old rope bridge over a lake of lava, or a stick from the garden can be a sword, cowboy gun or magic wand. What if we could see our everyday lives as an adventure? The perilous, exciting, magical quest to extend the kingdom of God. We'd be happier. We would enjoy life to its fullest – conscious of the privilege it is to embark on such a quest. Children imagine so much more than adults because as we grow up, we get more and more exposed to the real world. Responsibilities pile up on top of us and we quickly learn that staying task-focussed, serious and practical is the only way to get on top of life. But I think that's a lie. I think a spirit of adventure and imagination is the key to being content in every situation, not to mention productive, innovative and quite honestly more of a fun person to be around. Children can find ways to have fun in any situation. God gave us our life to live to the full (John 10:10). It's an adventure waiting to be had. We ought to grasp every opportunity and... have it!
Secondly, children are sponges when it comes to learning. They soak up everything, learning much more efficiently because of the way our brains develop. Physically, we may not be able to learn as good as them anymore, but we can go about life with an attitude of learning. Children are so inquisitive. It is thought that children ask roughly 125 questions per day, and adults ask about 6 questions a day. Somewhere along the line, we have lost 119 questions a day and if we're not asking, we're not learning. One of the keys to deep, meaningful relationships with people is to ask them questions. Spend time learning about them, rather than talking constantly about yourself or simply about menial things. The same goes for learning about God. We can never learn all there is to know about the world, let alone about God, but we'll learn nothing if we fail to accept that we know very little and have a life-long curiosity and habit of asking, learning, seeking.
Children are very trusting. Trust is our default setting that God gave us. You teach a child something and they will simply believe you. It's a shame that things such as lies exist because then an innocent, honest thing like 'believing' becomes something else called 'gullible'. And there are certainly times when we should question what we hear and learn. But when you look at a child, you see the beauty of their innocence in believing. They are quick to believe. Faith comes to them more naturally and effortlessly. If we know that God is good, why not take a leaf out of a child's book and simply believe. Take His word for it, without a second thought. A child sees his daddy and jumps up into his arms knowing that he'll catch her. 'That's dangerous darling,' says the dad, 'what if I dropped you?' The child responds, 'You would never drop me. You're my daddy.' Know without a doubt that God will never 'drop' you. Trust Him like a child trusts. Believe Him when He says 'I love you and I will never leave you.'
On a similar note, children are often in a state of wonder. They find wonder in the ordinary. A child could stare for ages at a ladybug crawling across the kitchen table or yell at you excitedly about the morning dew they found on the grass, while pulling your arm out of its socket to drag you to come look. They are easily awe-struck, whereas our experienced and very sensible view of the world leaves us shrugging our shoulders and saying 'meh' to stunning sunsets and the genius design of our human bodies. There is so much in this world to wonder about, yet we walk right passed them all the time. Similarly, God's love is so extravagant that we ought to be in constant wonderment, but we can so easily become very ho-hum about it. It becomes a given, we take it for granted, and forget that for non- or new-believers, it is new, exciting, and indescribably amazing! Let's not be ordinary about the wonderful. Let's soften our hearts and allow ourselves to live in constant wonder of God!