As someone who is perpetually surprised at how fast the years go, the appeal to childlike faith is one of my favorite parts of the Gospel. The story is recorded in Matthew 18, Mark 10, and Luke 18. It is often taught in the context of a childlike trust or a childlike fear. True enough, children have almost no means of their own and are thus necessitated to trust others. Also, when you’re small and weak, a healthy measure of fear is in order. However, trust and fear are discussed a great deal already. What I think is overlooked in the call to childlike faith is a quality that is so often lost following adolescence: wonder.
Think back to the days of your early youth. Or, perhaps ask someone who was there for it. Chances are, you asked an exhaustive amount of questions, pointed at a variety of things, and smiled at the simple joy of seeing a fire truck or a flower. When you’re seven, the sum total of your creative output is a few mud pies and a Thanksgiving hand-turkey that looks nothing like your hand or a turkey. Creation and all that fills it are utterly foreign and completely beyond your childish abilities. But then you go to school, where the wonder of meeting new people eventually fades. You learn, or try to learn, complex systems of language and mathematics. Things that you never understood are revealed to you: why flowers bloom in spring and why the sun appears to rise and set. The things that once brought wonder are now systematic answers to analytical questions. Every once in a while, especially during the Christmas season, your old heart may be moved to youthful glee once again. And yet, the feeling is often fleeting.
Christ calls us to a higher level of wonder, a curiosity that will not run dry. When the little children are brought before Jesus in the Synoptics, Jesus holds them up as the example of how to enter the Kingdom of God. They come eager to see Him, eager to be in His presence. Why? Because children are naturally curious. Naturally full of wonder.
This, I believe, is the prescriptive point we should gain from this episode in the Gospels. Childlike wonder is a key element of our faith. It is not by any means some illusory abstraction. It can be regained by adults. All things are created by God, or by one of His children. Therefore, as a potter’s fingerprints are on that of a jar, God’s fingerprints are throughout this world.
Everything reveals to us something about our God. Each experience we have, each person we meet, and each thing we come across tells us something about our Creator. The man down the street dutifully caring for his dying wife is a taste of the even grander devotion of the Creator. The story of survival and the power of the human will tells us that the Creator values perseverance. The example of a mother’s love toward her newborn baby reflects the nurturing heart of our Lord.
This is not to say that everything is a metaphor for Christ. It is, however, a call to open the eyes of our hearts a little wider, that we might see more of the Lord around us, and in turn, more of Him within us. Whether positive or negative, we should approach life with a childlike wonder. We should be curious of what will be revealed about God, and excited by His work. When the Pharisees asked about the coming of the kingdom of God, Jesus told them it was already in their midst (Luke 17:21). It was not so much a physical thing, but rather a posture of the heart. The little children approached Christ in wonder. If we adopt the posture of a child, filled with wonder and joy, then we too will see the kingdom of God.