The Sophistication of a Child

(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

Margaret and Rick were fighting. Again. Once they were so excited with their marriage they called it a three-ring circus. So much new was happening, they couldn’t wait for the next act to be introduced. Now, it seemed as if their marriage was another kind of ring — a boxing ring. They never struck one another with their fists, but their words were fashioned into blows which hurt deeper than any physical pain.

One day in a fit of anger, Rick yelled, “You are such a big baby! When are you ever going to grow up?”

When Margaret recoiled under the force of his words, Rick stopped and hung his head in shame. All of the things that had gone wrong with their marriage had caused him to forget one of the things that so attracted him to Margaret in the first place — her child-like sense of wonder and trust.

There is something exciting about the naive trust of a child. It is something which we sophisticated adults seem to enjoy in others, but frantically try to avoid in ourselves.

Linda was six years-old. She was playing on the beach with her family when she found a sea shell, held it up to her ear, and listened to the sound of the ocean. You could have explained to her that it wasn’t really the ocean she was hearing, but the pattern of sound waves caused by the unusual shapes of the shell, but she wouldn’t have believed you. To a child, it was the ocean she heard.

The next morning, Linda went back out to the beach and picked up the same shell and pressed it to her ear. “Hey,” she said, “this thing has been on all night!”

Jimmy was in the first week of first grade. The teacher made the mistake of leaving the room for a few minutes. When she returned every child in the room was throwing erasers, pencils, paper, books — the class was in an uproar.

All except for Jimmy. Jimmy was seated at his desk, his hands folded in his lap, and staring straight ahead.

“Jimmy,” the teacher asked, “why weren’t you throwing erasers like everyone else? Don’t you like to throw erasers?”

Jimmy replied, “I like to throw erasers, but I can’t. You see, I am a church.”

Jimmy had been told by his mother, “You are a holy tabernacle in which Jesus lives,” and he had gotten the impression, that he, himself, was a church. He wasn’t wrong.

One day Jesus watched two men pray. One was a Pharisee, a spiritual leader, a man who tried to keep the Law. The other was a tax collector, an outcast, a thief. The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like that tax collector.” The tax collector prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said that only the tax collector’s child-like prayer was heard.

Then with those prayers still echoing around Jerusalem, some mothers approached Jesus. They wanted him to bless their children. The disciples thought they were protecting Jesus by keeping the children away. When he saw it, Jesus said, “Don’t stop the children! Let them come to me because God’s kingdom belongs to them. If anyone does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he shall not enter it at all.”

We smile when Jimmy says he is a church and therefore cannot participate in classroom disruption, when Linda says a sea shell has been left on all night, when Rick remembers it was Margaret’s childlike trust that caused him to love her in the first place.

But when it comes to loving and serving God, we try to become sophisticated. We forget that so much of what we call “sophistication” is simply cleverness and conformity and deception. Being a child is what touches God. He is never impressed by our sophistication.

Jesus says, “If you try to reason it out, I can never bless you. But if you trust me, like a little child, I will forgive you and give you my eternal life.”

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