Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such that the Kingdom of God belongs…And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:14,16 NRSV)
When you think of children, you do not usually think of “losers.” They are “cute” and “lovable.” But in a world in which everyone and everything is so much bigger and stronger than you are, their vulnerability can seem to create losers.
Children are small. They have no power or status. They are not taken all that seriously. They are prey to any and all who desire to harm or exploit them. Yet it is not these attributes of children that Jesus urges us to imitate.
Children have a sense of wonder about the world and themselves (anyone who has ever heard a baby repeat the same self-made sound ad nauseam and marvel at their own voice will know what I mean). They find joy in the simple things: a swing, a puddle of inviting (and prohibited) water, funny sounds and faces, snow, candy, bugs, the list goes on. Yet most importantly, children trust. They are generally very trusting people, sometimes to their detriment. At times they misplace their trust and end up suffering because of it.
These are the aspects of children that usher us into the Kingdom of God. We are to cultivate a sense of wonder, to move through life with eyes, ears and hearts wide open, and receptive. When was the last time you stopped and really looked at a sunrise or a star-splashed sky? Have you ever allowed yourself to truly listen to the pounding surf, the gentle splash of raindrops, or a sleeping beloved’s gentle breath? When was the last time you examined the intricacies of a leaf or flower or strolling insect and marveled at the design and fragility of it all?
We are to cultivate joy. When was the last time you took a deep breath of crisp morning air and allowed the simple goodness of the moment recharge your soul? When you eat, do you allow yourself to really taste the food God has so lavishly provided, or do you rush through meals as you rush through life? When was the last time you belted out a song, on key or off, with no thought of what others might think?
Above all, we are to cultivate trust. We trust the chair we sit in will support us. Do we trust that God desires to be at least as supportive of us as a piece of furniture? Obstacles to trust, such as past betrayals or trust misplaced, can make trusting in God’s love for us difficult for some. But while it may be difficult it is not impossible.
Look at Jesus. Nowhere is it recorded where Jesus ever betrayed the trust of anyone. Over and over, Jesus provides ample evidence that he is worthy of trust. And if his words were not enough to convince us, his bloodied, blasphemed and lacerated body, as well as the empty Easter tomb, should prove beyond any doubt that he is trustworthy. Jesus will never lie to you. He will never betray you or shun you. He does not wait to love you until you are perfect enough, pure enough, straight enough. He loves you now with a love that has embraced you since before you were born. He loves you with a love that drove him to the cross for your sake. He loves you with a love that nothing can destroy.
Today, pray for a childlike heart. Pray that Jesus open your eyes, your ears, your soul to embrace the world that waits to embrace you, to swim in its wonder, and to rest in the arms of the one who bids you, “Come to me.”
Tom Yeshua is the pen name of Thomas E.L. Cloutier OFS, a transitional deacon who taught theology for 30 years at Nashua (N.H.) Catholic Regional Junior High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., and a master’s in divinity and theology from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.