Think of one (just one) foolish thing you did as a child. I remember one “project” I attempted as a single-digit aged kid. I thought it would be “fun” to paint the basement of our house! The problem was I didn’t have enough paint to do all the walls. I didn’t have the right paintbrush to do the job. And I didn’t have the “know-how” to do it right. Needless to say a little paint here and a little paint there was all I managed and it didn’t please my mother at all.
Children make bad choices. Children do foolish things at times. I’ve even seen children be cruel to one another.
So, why does Jesus say this in response to the disciples asking Him “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”: And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (see Matthew 18:1-4)
After all, St. Paul tells the Corinthians “BRETHREN, when I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
You already see the difference, don’t you? It’s the huge difference between being childish and childlike.
Childishness should be abandoned as we mature. The selfish and self-centered tendencies of children to scream “Mine” when someone else is playing with a favorite toy, the undeveloped perspective of the vastness of the human soul, the unlearned lessons of discipline and patience, all work in a child to fashion a childishness that screams immaturity and a lack of perspective. Certainly a mature believer has outgrown these temptations in their developed faith.
But childlikeness, now there is something to be held on to forever. That ability to simply trust that “daddy will take care of me.” The simple and loving embrace of true affection. The innocence of unfamiliarity with “sophisticated” sins. All these point to the huge difference between childlikeness and childishness.
To be childlike is to the willingly vulnerable and unashamedly so. To be childlike is to run to love. To be childlike is to simply trust. To be childlike is to be willing to truly experience the moment you are in fully with no expectation of the next moment.
A wise man once said that if you wanted to know something of the joys of eternity, think of eternity as a child playing with her father and asking over and over again “Do it again, daddy.” The child never tires of the pleasure of that moment.
So, today, let us examine our hearts and tease out the childish from the childlike and dismiss the former. But let us enthusiastically embrace the latter as the path to truly being a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Today, are you childish or childlike?