Childlike quality disappears with age

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2002

I attended a dinner recently in which there were a number of people who had never been together before. Two of the couples brought their young daughters, both about 4 or 5 years old. There was an instant rapport between them. Their eyes were wide with delight when they saw each other. Something about both of them being the same size and age brought them together like dear friends.

During the dinner, there was the most wonderful background music of two little girls who were giggling and having a good time. I wondered to myself, "when does that change for many people? What would it take to be like those little girls again?"

In childhood, we must possess a quality we can lose as we age, something that if we were to keep, we might find life so pleasurable and joyful and less complicated.

It occurred to me once as I was reading the scripture, that Jesus often referred to little children as examples of how we should act and behave toward one another. In each of these examples, he drew the attention to how we (the adults) should become like little children. This is a typical passage:

"Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. (47) And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, (48) and said to them, 'Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.'" Luke 9:46-48

Isn't it interesting there doesn't appear to be examples of Jesus telling little children to be like adults?

I thought about this for some time and came to the conclusion that as we age, we can lose the ability to be childlike.

There are two qualities among several that we often observe in children, one positive and one negative. The positive, of course, is the childlikeness I have just mentioned. The negative quality is childishness. Somehow, we seem to be able to retain the childish qualities of selfishness, stubbornness, rebellion and the like, while losing the much more precious quality of childlikeness. We can't be both at the same time.

How would we characterize childlikeness? What have we lost as we have grown up? Childlikeness is the ability to not be cynical, to accept someone new regardless of race or physical traits, to find wonder in a dandelion and to be content with what we have.

Do you remember life like that? What would it take to get us to return to childlikeness? More important, what if many of us, in our families, jobs and communities rediscovered this lost quality? What kind of world would we live in? A better world, I believe.

It would be easy to illustrate what life would be like if we all acted in childish ways. Instead, wouldn't it be better to take a chance on finding what has been lost and living were filled with the little girl giggles and the surprise of sunsets again?

We easily can be discouraged from believing it isn't possible.

Jesus says we can be childlike again and he will help us. As we live in a "who is the greatest?" culture and all the voices seem to be shouting that you have to "look out for No. 1," we must listen carefully not to those voices but to the one who promises something different and something better.

Take a chance and, perhaps, it will be your joy that makes music in the background.

The Rev. Stephen Brown pastors at Kenai New Life Assembly of God Church in Kenai. For more information about the church and its services, call 283-7752.

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