I am not, by nature, childlike.
Responsible. Trustworthy. Mature. Those were the words more often spoken over me as a child. Even as a child, I was not very childlike.
“Childlike” used to equate with “childish,” in my mind. In other words, foolish, flighty, immature. Aren’t we supposed to grow up and be done with childish things?
Childish, yes. But childlike, never.
What Are Children Like?
Lately, I’ve taken to volunteering in the nursery through pre-school rooms at church. Aside from the occasional hilarious soundbite (one kid, when I commented on his excellent coloring skills, replied, “Thanks. I’ve been coloring for about a year now”), they help me remember what children are like.
Kids are full of wonder. Delight. Joy. Boundless energy. Everything is new and therefore interesting. They are poor in spirit, dependent, needy. And those needs pour out freely, sometimes overwhelmingly. They cry and laugh without editing. Certainly, they trust.
But maybe most baffling to me is how time slows with children. And how one simple act-swinging in a swing or throwing a ball-they can repeat again and again. It reminds me of this quote from Chesterton:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
“But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.
“It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
So what does it look like for us, as adults, to be childlike?
What It’s Like to Be Childlike
Maybe it starts with wonder. May God give us eyes to see the glory all around us-the blessings He gives us in every small moment. That kind of wonder leads to grateful hearts who recognize the goodness of our Father.
To be childlike is to be poor in spirit, accepting of our poverty, and willing to live from it. That is to say, we are honest about and unashamed of our weakness and need. That leads us to live each moment in dependence on God and others.
Children know they don’t have it all together. They know they’re still learning. That knowledge doesn’t lead to condemnation but to openness. To be childlike, we live teachable. No matter how far we’ve come, we believe there’s more to learn, and are open to how we might learn it.
And woven through all that there is grace. Because kids don’t beat themselves up for their humble position, and neither should we. Instead, may it leads us to trust others to carry us when we reach the end of ourselves. And may kindness and compassion mark how we respond to our souls.
The Childlikeness of God
Being childlike is, in some way, to be like our Father, because He too is full of wonder, delight, joy. His creation invites us to play and discover. Jesus humbled himself in the greatest way in order for us to have life. He chose poverty for our sakes. Moreover, He lived grace, kindness, and compassion. Growing old in our souls moves us away from His heart.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
The kingdom belongs to those who embrace their position as children before God. Those who humbly acknowledge their need and let it lead them to trust and dependence. Those who live loved by the Father. At His feet may we be filled with wonder and awe.