Thursday, January 8, 2009

Between the Parent and the Child

How often do you scold one of your offspring for "acting like a child"? The next time you start to say that, stop and consider Jesus's words: "...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" (Mt. 18:3-4, NIV).

That's not to say that all "childish" behavior is godly. When youngsters are told, "Don't be such a child!" it's often because they're whining with impatience, demanding what they want when they want it and wailing "You don't love me!" in the face of a firm "no." The Israelites in the wilderness frequently behaved the same way, and it stretched even God's patience. No, Jesus is definitely not saying we should "become like little children" in that sense.

But the reprimand "Don't be so childish" is also frequently heard when children aren't really doing anything bad: they're just shouting with delight when Dad wants quiet, chasing soap bubbles when Mom is worried about running late, or filling the air with wild hilarity which their parents consider a public embarrassment. Which is the more Christlike approach to life, really: the all-business, rush-rush, worry-about-what-everyone-thinks attitude that frequently characterizes adults; or the child's easy laughter, awe at the beauties of Creation, and total abandon to enjoying every moment? There are times the mature Christian must be serious and somber; but too many of us seem to think God commands that attitude all the time, whether it meets the needs of the moment or not.

"Thou shalt not be silly for the joy of it" is not one of the Ten Commandments. Perhaps, instead of constantly nagging our children to "grow up," we ourselves need to "grow down."

Between the parent and the child
Wide difference sows its seeds:
The child sees beautiful wildflowers
Where the parent sees only weeds.

Between the parent and the child
The contrast stands out strong:
The child loves watching the train go by;
Parents fume that the wait’s so long.

Between the parent and the child
Lie worlds of years grown dim:
But as our children will learn from us,
Let us learn all we can from them!

No comments: