I’ve spent the last couple of days listening to the Toronto ‘Sick Kids’ Hospital radio telethon on CFRB. I listened to story after story of kids facing seemingly impossible medical challenges and the courage they display. Children in wheelchairs and sick beds, hooked up to miles of tubing and a plethora of equipment, still manage not only to smile, but find reason and strength to laugh and bring a little fun into their lives.
I’m reminded of other examples from other fund-raising efforts. The children in AIDS-riddled Africa still manage to laugh and play in the midst of their despair, taking immense joy from something as simple as a ball made from rags bound with tape and string. Children who spend their days scrounging through garbage dumps in South America to earn a small income for their families, draw comfort and love from each other in the meager hovel they call home. A small boy in Uganda smiles enthusiastically for the camera as he carries a 20-litre can of water almost as big as himself two kilometers from the well to his hut – twice – everyday!
Closer to home, and not nearly facing such misfortune, I marvel at my own nephew. I remember when, the night his grandmother died, the four-year-old’s primary concern was to say to his mother, “It’s okay Mommy, don’t be sad!”
As I listen, and watch, and remember, one word comes to mind over and over again – resiliency.
Children are, at one and the same time, the most fragile and the most resilient of all human beings. They will, given the chance, find reason to smile and laugh, and opportunities for play in even the most devastating of circumstances. In many ways, I envy them.
I’ve often wondered where they get this remarkable ability and I have come to the following conclusion – it’s faith. Children quickly realize, if only on a subconcious level, that they have no control over their situation. As a result they must rely on the adults in their lives to put things right. They put all of their faith in their parents, grandparents, older siblings, whoever it is that takes care of them. This level of complete dependency frees them to do one thing – enjoy life the best they can. They are free to play, and laugh, and sing in the midst of all they must endure because they have handed the whole thing over to people who are able to deal with it much better than they are.
Unfortunately not all children exhibit this inate ability. My heart goes out most to the ones who have lost the capacity to play. They are most often orphans, huddled in rooms filled with dozens of others like themselves, with no one to hold them, no one to assure them that everything will work out some how. They have fallen so far into their despair they have lost the very sense of what they are – children.
Having said all that, I’d like you to consider the words of Jesus from Matthew 18:3-4…
And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
For me the reason Jesus suggested we become like children lies in this simple matter of faith. As adults we constantly feel the need to worry over what will happen next and how we can control it. Hardest of all for us to accept is that there are things in this world that are simply beyond our control; there are things we cannot do anything about no matter how hard we try. Even after we have prayed and “surrendered” everything to God we still ask the same question once we get up off our knees; “Okay, now what do I do?”, as if it is still up to us to solve the problem.
But to fit into the kingdom of God requires ‘complete’ dependency on Him. That’s why we have to become like little children. As children we understood what it meant to ‘trust the Father’ because it was instinctive to us. We need to go back there once more. We need to regain the ability to not worry over what we can’t control. And when we do we will enjoy once again that same freedom we knew as children.
Because we are not spiritual orphans, because we have a Father who cares for us and answers our needs we can devote ourselves to the one thing that matters most – to enjoy life as best we can. We can be free to smile, to laugh and even to play in the midst of our desperation because we know that even if we don’t understand what is going on we have a Father in heaven who will take care of it for us. Even if we seem to be going hungry right now we can enjoy the simple pleasure of a ball made of rags because our older brother Jesus will take care of things somehow.
Too many of us are living like orphans. Too many of us are so lost in worry and despair we have lost the very sense of who we are – children of God. We huddle in the churches with others like ourselves wondering who will take care of us, who will feed us when all the time God is reaching out to us in love.
So I challenge you, dear Reader. Like me, try to enter a second childhood. Become a child again and enter into the kingdom. Smile, laugh, play a while. God will take care of things if we will only let go of them.