Oh, to be a kid again! Or at least, to be like a kid...
The Bible says that's actually something us old folks are supposed to attempt. I have had a fair amount of opportunity to study kids. (I read once that to truly be considered a master at something, you have to spend at least 10,000 hours doing or practicing for it. If you only count the 2+ years I've parented a minimum of 4 boys 24/7, then I have over 18,000 hours under my belt. Yes, I counted night time in there too. Plenty of humble mommy-ing happens in the wee hours.) A fair amount.
By now, I have noticed a few reasons why Jesus might have encouraged us to emulate the children.
1. Kids are naturally happy.
My children automatically tend to look at glasses as half full - even if for no other reason than that makes it more fun to dump out. They aren't generally depressed. They embrace life, as if it's an exciting adventure. Even going to Walmart gets their heart pumping (It does mine too, but not from joy.) It's infectious (Ever been grumpy around a three year old giggling uproariously? It's not easy.)
Rejoice always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
2. Kids wake up eagerly.
"It's five a.m.? Yay! What are we waiting for? Let's get this day rolling! C'mon, sleepyhead brothers, let's sing! Help Mom get moving so she doesn't miss out." (Honestly, they have to stay quietly in their room until 7, but especially the littlest ones don't get this for a while. Maybe it's just in my house...)
...She also rises while it is yet night... Proverbs 31:15
3. Kids trust.
Parents have to teach their kids not to talk to strangers. Why? Because their natural tendency is to want to trust. Really, more often than not, this is to their advantage. My boys have gotten free balloons, candy, money, attention, cheese, and puppies (ok, no puppies... yet) simply by holding out their hands and believing the big people in charge of those things would share the good they had. Surprisingly often, they're right.
The children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. Psalm 36:7
4. Kids ask for what they need.
Even babies grasp this concept. Want food? Cry for it. Need comfort? Hold up your arms for a hug. A kid doesn't sit around worrying about not having it. He goes right to the source (in his mind) of everything he needs. And he expects an answer.
Ask, and it will be given to you... Matthew 7:7
5. Kids are curious.
They are humble enough to admit they don't know "why" or "how." So they try to find out. This is similar to the former point. It goes beyond asking, though. They experiment, they poke, they test gravity and Mom's limits. They want to know what "exterminate" means, and why you can't usually see the moon in the daytime, and which kind of ice cream can they have for breakfast. (The kind with oatmeal and nothing from the freezer, fyi.)
I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven... Ecclesiasties 1:13
6. Kids touch.
Up here in the northeast, natives are fairly reserved. We don't hug a lot, link elbows for a stroll, caress in public, or even poke people on Facebook. Our west coast friends teased us constantly in our college days for being so physically inhibited. Maybe it has something to do with the cold weather; we're just cooler in our interactions. Most folks I know will bend over backwards to help someone in need, but don't expect backslapping or sharing a sofa with only one cushion. I remember in the early days with the first baby, laughing about how much constant contact a newborn afforded. It was foreign (though not unpleasant.) My kids have no such inhibitions. They hug, they cuddle, they keep each other in almost constant headlocks. My four year old is ninja master of attack hugs from behind. The two year old isn't an ankle biter, he's more of an ankle clinger. They literally need physical contact to grow, both bodily and mentally. So - they touch. They reach out. They grab and cling to me.
Love the Lord your God, serve Him, and cleave unto (cling to) Him... Deuteronomy 11:22
7. Kids are so tough.
My boys aren't very breakable. They've fallen down the stairs. They've gotten up close and personal, at high speed, with the pavement beneath their bikes. They've been bumped, and scraped, and smushed, and strained - all within just the last week. My two year old son has had a handful of surgeries already - spine, brain, the nether regions... The surgical wounds healed in days. I would be a miserable helpless ball of pain for weeks if you did that stuff to me. I think often they must be made of rubber. They feel pain, certainly, and cry, and come limping to Mom for a hug and a band aid. But within minutes, even if they're still bleeding, they are back to giggling and playing.
Be strong and of good courage... Joshua 1:6
8. Kids are powerful.
Arrows filling up my quiver. Children are often looked at as lumpy, snotty baggage in our culture. They are expensive, time-wasting, whining debt makers that only the people who've already lived the good life are supposed to condescend to birth, twice, maybe three times, and then raise them to school age, at which point they can finally get back to their real, meaningful lives and careers. (That may be a bit overblown; I'm trying to make a point.) I'll admit, when I think of my kids, I don't always look at them as gifts, rewards, and or even as particularly useful. Arrows? Arrows are tools, exactingly made for a purpose. They are mighty. Arrows have the power to kill; they can be used to start or end wars, to make provisions, to hit a mark. I've seen my littlest kids melt the stern demeanor of the most stoic old women. Careless hard living men have had their seared consciences smote by innocent eyes of children staring up at them. They've certainly been used to shape my life. They've helped define my purpose and priorities; their very weaknesses make me bolder to fight, and gladly. They are gifts, precious, costly, and I will defend them as such. I hope God uses each of them to show the way into the joy of His kingdom for many more.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but speak with their enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:4-5
I wouldn't go back to being five again. Those were fun days of running around in tutus, playing Barbies, catching frogs, and being generally amazed by puffy clouds, graham crackers and apple juice. I reveled in the good that God did, taking it for granted. I wouldn't go back, because I want to be the mommy and wife that I get to be now, but I don't want to forget those innocent days.
Jesus liked to refer to himself as the Son of Man. He didn't say he was King of the World, though he was. He didn't say he was the Man of all men, though he was. Not the macho-ist, or the wisest, or the richest, strongest, or nicest, though he definitely was. He identified himself as a son. One who was younger, simpler, humbler than the grownups. Though he had it all, knew it all, was it all, he became a squalling helpless infant. A dirty, tousled, sniffly preschooler. An awkward, bucktoothed 8 year old. An acne-prone, hormonal teenager. And he did it on purpose.
...For of such is the kingdom of God. Mark 10:14
That settles it. I'm digging out a graham cracker from the stash in the diaper bag and going to spend some time with my Father. Every Bible can handle a few crumbs between the pages sometimes. It could be the forgotten secret to making 5 a.m. look a bit brighter now that I'm so old. If not, there's always Cheerios...