Childlikeness: A Valuable Asset

ONE time I was waiting in an auto body shop for my car to be repaired. A tough-looking man came into the shop. When he saw my four-week-old son, however, his face lit up. He stopped and proceeded to tell me how much he loved little children. As he spoke, his toughness faded. He became more peaceful--even more childlike--himself. And this was certainly more appealing and lovable than the "tough guy image he'd projected at first. What brought about this change in character? My husband and I think our son i s pretty special, but even he, all by himself, couldn't have caused such a profound change. Yet the godlike qualities--such as peace, purity, and gentleness, which children seem to express so naturally, do bring such radical changes to the human heart.

As we recognize that the character so uncovered is, in fact, our genuine, God-given nature, we can begin to make the improving effects of such childlikeness permanent in our lives. Christ Jesus said we must become "as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. To me this means that I need to embody the qualities--such as love and innocence--that children seem so naturally to reflect. These are what open to us the kingdom of heaven, or blissful state of thought, that Jesus referred to. These qualitie s have their source in God, divine Love. Childlikeness is not, then, confined to youth or destroyed by age. Man cannot lose the spiritual innocence and purity that make him truly God's beloved child. But in order to let these qualities change our lives, we need to nurture them actively.

At a recent neighborhood meeting, the group was discussing the trespassing that some children were doing. We were in the midst of determining if stricter rules were needed to keep children within certain boundaries when a retired gentleman chimed in. He spoke about how much he loved having the children play in or near his yard. He said they brought so much joy to his life. The whole group was quiet for a moment, then many expressed gratitude for his comments. We were all reminded how much children contri bute. Although we did not enact stricter rules, the trespassing has not been a problem since.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, loved children and saw the importance of cherishing and utilizing the childlike qualities in each of us. Miscellaneous Writings records, for example, that she said in an address in The Mother Church in 1895, "Beloved children, the world has need of you,--and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives. Our lives can show that contact with the world need not be all owed to sour or crush childlikeness. On the contrary, children and adults can continue to express childlike qualities, such as unselfishness, peace, purity, and innocence, that bring joy and healing to the world. We can let these qualities, which are from God, inspire us as grown men and women to demonstrate more love and compassion to our neighbors, create a better environment, and become less selfish.

Authentic childlike purity cannot truly be lost, because it is not determined by age or a stage of mortal existence. It is the natural expression of God. Our perfect nature as children of God is intact, complete. We may sometimes feel it needs a lot of dusting off, though, and remembering our own childlikeness can give us the incentive to make the effort. Such childlike receptivity to good brings joy and peace to a sometimes difficult adult world.

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