“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
IT IS EASY FOR A CHILD TO LOVE THE THINGS THAT GOD HAS MADE AND TO BE DRAWN BY THESE THINGS TO LOVE GOD HIMSELF. Innocent and free, a child responds very naturally to goodness and beauty; he or she takes genuine delight in the multifaceted mysteries of creation. A cloud . . . a tree . . . a squirrel. There is nothing that is not of interest, nothing that does not make the heart throb with wonder and longing for something (or Someone) beyond.
A time comes, however, if the child lives long enough, when these things begin to lose their interest. And the reason? Sin has entered the heart, throwing everything into disarray. There is now delusion and falsehood. Values have been turned upside down. Cynicism has set in. The child, now no longer a child, is busy, not enjoying the creation, but trying to own it and manipulate it to selfish advantage. Now, if he ever notices a cloud, a tree, or a squirrel, he goes to one of two extremes: either he (1) disregards them completely, or (2) worships them rather than their Creator.
All of this is profoundly sad. Yet it would be far sadder if it were not for the gospel of Jesus Christ, through which it is possible to be forgiven and to recover the child-like wonder and honest humility with which we used to respond to God’s goodness. The child that we used to be is not gone forever but simply buried under layers of adult pride and busyness. We should be encouraged to know that there are choices we’re capable of making that will open our hearts back up to the powerful pull of truth and joy.
We need to make these choices and go back to our younger hearts. “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said. In the kingdom, there are many new things to be learned. But before we can learn them, there is a good deal of grown-up “stuff” that needs to be unlearned, especially our desire for counterfeit pleasures rather than the real ones that God has provided.
“I was a little stranger who was surrounded by innumerable joys when I arrived here . . . I knew nothing of sickness or death. In the absence of these I was entertained like an angel with the works of God. Heaven and earth sang my Creator’s praise” (Thomas Traherne).