“Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” That verse in Matthew gave me so much grief for so long. I mean, the rest of scripture talks about us putting on armor and fighting evil spirits, about setting examples, and about not clinging to milk in our faith but instead becoming adults and eating “real food.” Especially being someone who has always taken pride in being told I am more mature than most people my age and knowing that I’ve been gifted with many different gifts and talents that tend toward leadership, I never was able to reconcile the idea of being a child with myself. So, in many ways, I ignored the verse and focused on the other verses that I did relate better to.
But one day, when I felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give to God, when I felt like everything I wanted to do was being blockaded, like I was unable to do anything at all that would ever be of merit to the Kingdom, I looked up at the cross and just said, “I can’t do this, Jesus.” And I felt him say, “That’s my girl, now come here.” And so, my spirit ran to my Lord, and I found myself as a little child, running to her daddy or to her big brother, and Jesus stepped off the cross and scooped me up, and He held me close to His chest. He did many things for my tired spirit that day, and the next day, at mass, I tried to prostrate my soul before Him and thank Him, but he kept pulling me up, almost frustrated. Finally, I was frustrated and said, “God! Why won’t you let me worship and adore you?” Smiling warmly, He pulled me into His lap and said, “This is how I wish you to adore me.” And He simply held me close and stroked my hair.
Jesus doesn’t need our actions. He doesn’t need our great deeds. We can only give Him things we’ve been given by Him. But what He wants is our love and our trust. A child does not know, for the first bit of his life, that he is separate from his parents. Even when he gets to be old enough to know that he is not his parents, he still identified himself with his parents. His identity is intrinsically wrapped up in his parents. Children also do not hesitate to bring things to Jesus that aren’t perfect. They bring pictures that are scribbled out of the lines, and they know that Mommy and Daddy will love it. They bring wildflowers to their parents as though they are roses and lilies.
Being a child isn’t about making your intellect or your strength less. Being a child is about learning to love and trust God with an abandon that only a child can have, recognizing that the little things are just as pleasing to Jesus as the big things, and recognizing that anything that you have – your gifts, talents, strengths, and weaknesses – come from Him. Spiritual Childhood is about finding yourself on the lap of our Lord and knowing that our identities do not come from our earthly parents, our families, our jobs, our vocations, or our desires, for we are Children of God. So, today, stop trying to continually be the strong one. Instead, be the little boy or the little girl sitting on Daddy’s lap. Tell him what’s going on, as a child would, and let Him cradle you in His arms as He so longs to do.