“But Jesus called for them, saying, ‘Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’” Luke 18:16-17
My mom and I taught a class of wiggly two-and-three-year-olds (though not the one to the left) about the ascension this past Sunday. It’s always a fun, albeit hectic, hour or so of dropped crayons and smashed cheerios and squealing little people and occasional I-miss-mommy tears.
But as I sat in the circle of carpet squares on the floor, cuddling one curly-headed little girl on my lap while my mom brought the story alive in toddler language in the amazing way she always does, I was struck by the response of the children. Across from me on our helper’s lap sat a little boy adopted a year or so ago from Korea—a precious little fellow, but usually one of our wiggliest and not very verbal yet. But as my mom reminded the children of the “sad day and happy day” we discussed a few weeks ago on Easter, his eyes got big and he squealed, “Oohhh!” He did it again as she described how after Jesus came back to life and spent time with His friends, He went up in the sky (represented by our big sheet of butcher paper colored blue and decorated by the children) to prepare a place for us in heaven.
As I looked around at the rapt little faces, I thought—why don’t I get this excited? Yes, these small people are easily distracted and sometimes throw things and hit each other, but other times maybe they “get it” more than I do. I listened to my glib recitations to them of “Jesus is amazing” and “Jesus is making a place for us in heaven” and inwardly contrasted them to my weekday worrying and struggling. Did I really believe what I was saying? I mean, really? What makes me so different from these little ones?
They don’t worry, for one thing. They live not just day to day, but moment to moment—one minute they are in despair because Mommy has disappeared, the next happy to crayon scribble, munch goldfish crackers, or hear a story. They don’t carry the burdens of one day into the next. For me, on the other hand, Jesus’ command to not worry about anything at times seems almost impossible.
And they trust. Is there anything more endearing than little arms held up to you, trusting completely that you will pick them up and not drop them—that they will find comfort, if only you will hold them? Or trusting that when you say, “Go sit in your chair, and then you can have a snack,” you will follow through if they only obey. No wonder, despite their weakness and foibles—or perhaps because of them—Jesus calls us to become as little children.
I’d better keep my eyes open more in Sunday School in the future. The “twos and threes” might have more to teach me than I them.