“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Luke 10:15-16.
In 1982 I began working as a teacher’s aide in a class for handicapped preschoolers. The disabilities ranged from profound retardation and Cerebral Palsy to Spina Bifida, Down’s Syndrome, and Autism. As I began to learn the techniques involved with teaching these children I became reacquainted with an old friend, hiding under the complicated debris of being a grownup.
I discovered that in order to effectively teach a child it helps to think like a child. And thinking as a child thinks I began to remember how it felt to be a child. It was the child in me that was able to relax with these children as if I had known them all my life.
As I learned healthy teaching strategies, the hidden past of my childhood began to emerge. If it had not been for those particular children I might never have discovered the wisdom of my own gifted-but-handicapped child, waiting patiently for me to invite her to take her place in my grownup life.
Jesus says that we must receive the Kingdom of God like a child or we will never enter it. Is it just innocence that he is referring to? Or is it the unique perspective of our own childhood drama? Could he indeed be asking us to remember the curiosity, creativity, and crushing disappointments of our childhood in order to integrate them into our transformed life of faith?
We are invited to come into the Kingdom as complete human beings, bringing every part of the damaged, hidden, forgotten, and buried parts of ourselves. When we watch the children climb up onto Jesus’ knees we are watching him accept and love the child in us - introducing us to the inclusive embrace of God.
This Fall, I will invite the children up at the beginning of the 10am service to hear a mini sermon before going to their classes. I invite you to listen with your child heart - listen, and remember the complexity of childhood. The blessing Jesus gives the children is a blessing over our own childhoods, healing and restoring us to our place at God’s side.