At the morning Communion service on Wednesday 1 August, I was speaking about the miracle of the ‘Feeding of the 5000’ from John’s gospel chapter 6. I was making the point about how it was a little boy who provided his lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish that Jesus used to perform a miracle and how it was a child who made the difference in that situation and not an adult.
Jesus said, if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must have a child-like trust and faith in him. As adults, we so often think we have all the right answers, but, unlike children we fail to ask the right questions.
There are certain things we will never understand as long as we have a hard, cold, critical adult heart. We need something of the spontaneity, enthusiasm and innocence of children. There’s nothing quite like it – it’s special and irreplaceable. Children, quite naturally, have an open, trustful and, sometimes, generous nature. They make friends, they accept love, they are blissfully unaware of class-distinctions and barriers. They are not filled with delusions of grandeur or self-sufficiency.
A child doesn’t assume intellectual authority, they know when they are ignorant, are willing to admit to foolishness, they are always looking for the right answers to their questions.
What a contrast we see in adults, who like to rely on their own strengths, intellect and wisdom. We find it hard to admit failure and to recognise that we have fallen short of God’s required standard. Without genuine humility, we can never enter into a living relationship with God. In short, our pride comes in the way of everything that Jesus has in store for us.
And it is this that Jesus was talking about that makes it difficult, but not impossible, for adults to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We are to have a simplistic, childlike humility.
But being childlike is not about suppressing our enthusiasm and enjoyment of life. It is childlike faith, not a childish faith.
I ended with this poem, taken from my friend Phil Steer’s book ‘As A Child: A Call To Littleness’ which seemed to sum up so much of what I wanted to say (I love the first line of the last verse!):
As a child I found delight in leaf and twig and tree.
Such simple gifts of nature were a source of joy to me.
Birds singing in the tree-tops, the sun against my face,
Splashing through the puddles, as round the woods I’d race.
Taking home a sticky-bud and placing in a jar,
Then watching slowly open the green five-pointed star.
Collecting burnished conkers, lying where they fell,
Amongst the Autumn-tinted leaves and peeping from the shell.
But now it seems much harder to enjoy such simple things;
To receive with open hands and heart the gifts that each day brings.
No longer just accepted with unconsidered pleasure,
But analysed and categorised, I miss the hidden treasure.
O to be a child again! And put off grown up ways.
To know again the myriad gifts with which you fill my days.
To know you as my Father, and to know that I’m your son,
And as a child to trust your ways until my days are done.