By Emily Salerno-Oswald
Do you ever feel like you’re expected to have all the answers, but you find yourself coming up empty? Instead of providing every answer, you feel it would be a struggle to even provide one.
Sometimes, I sit down to write my “Insights” column and realize that I’m short on insights. I myself am in need of some insights from another. I need to be taught.
One of the places where I have learned some important lessons recently is, ironically, at my tutoring job (where I am supposed to be the one doing the teaching). I work with little kids who are mainly in preschool through second grade. The kids teach me some very profound things in the midst of moments that might, at face value, seem mundane. Here are some things I have learned about kids:
Kids are innocent. Kids want to be good. Kids love unconditionally. Kids depend on others freely. Kids live in the present moment. Kids show emotions (and often cannot hide how they feel). Kids are (sometimes brutally) honest. Kids are open to being taught. Kids look for guidance and structure. Kids like to give love freely. Kids show that they are happy when they receive love and/or recognition for being good. Kids let themselves get excited about small things. Kids are full of wonder. Kids are messy and often distracted. Kids love to laugh and have fun. Kids need to be told that they are good.
Children demonstrate that God exists and exemplify how God sees us, how God loves us, and how we ought to be if we wish to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Kids are a testament to God’s existence. They don’t have to be pure. They don’t have to want to be good. They don’t have to love unconditionally. But they just do. Why? No one teaches kids to be how they are. Only with time and exposure to the world do people become hardened, jaded, and less innocent; we all start out innocent. Why is this so? In such a broken world, one would expect quite the opposite.
Of course, we are all fallen and have the stain of original sin, but by and large, children don’t do much that is truly bad and they certainly don’t have malicious intent when they do make mistakes. Perhaps we all start out pure and innocent because we are coming from a pure and innocent Source. The innate innocence that we have when we are young speaks to the reality of our perfect Origin (God). Nothing reflects God’s pure love like a child.
Kids also give us an idea of how God sees us: as His beloved children. In caring for children, you see the necessity of patiently bearing with their mistakes, affirming their identity, and pouring yourself out to meet their needs. Even when they mess up, you see that they are so well intentioned that it’s nearly impossible to actually get mad at them. You see how much they soak up your gentleness and positive reinforcement, and you want to give them as much of that as possible because you know that– even though they are little– they have heavy burdens to bear too. This is just a glimpse at the kind of tender love with which God the Father views all of His children.
Kids often want to hold your hand, give you hugs, or just be around you– simply because of who you are. They say things like “I love you” or “You’re my best friend”, entirely out of the blue. At times, as my heart is quite literally melting, I try to figure out what I’ve ever done to earn such an honor. But, it’s not about what I’ve done. Their love is unconditional, and it doesn’t hold back– just like God’s love. Kids aren’t expecting too much. They simply enjoy being in the presence of those they care about and those they know care for them. God is like this too.
Lastly, Matthew 18:1-3 states, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” As God’s children, we must let ourselves be loved. God shows His love for each of us in unique ways. Once you become aware of the way that He loves you, you tap into it with childlike eagerness.
Also, we must embrace the fact that we are small instead of being afraid of it. Smallness is often seen as something to be exploited. Not so with God. Our smallness is our strength. Kids aren’t ashamed of the fact that they’re small. If you asked them to do an “adult task” like driving a car, they would smile and say to you, “I’m still just a kid!”. And they’d probably laugh as they said it. Their smallness doesn’t bring them fear or dismay, but joy. This is how it should be with us and God. The assurance that we are being cared for should replace any fear of weakness or exploitation.
Perhaps the scariest part of thinking of oneself as a child in God’s eyes is the fear of being abandoned by the only true parent one has. At the thought of being left to fend for himself, a child doesn’t know what to do. Though this fear is understandable, we must remember that we will never be lost to God. He will never let us go.
Psalm 27:10, NLT: Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.
Isaiah 49:15- Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!