MY husband and I had gone to a business function, and I was busy talking to a company vice- president. Suddenly there was an interruption; a five-year-old girl reached her hand out in front of me. Looking cheerfully up at the man, she said, "Hi, I'm Wendy!" He smiled, took her small hand in his big one, and said, "Hello."
Although this was a simple expression of kindness to a child, it reminded me of a lesson Christ Jesus taught his disciples long ago. Jesus showed the value of expressing childlike qualities regardless of one's age. In the book of Matthew in the Bible, we read that little children were brought to Jesus so that he might touch them and pray for them. The disciples, thinking that the children would be a bother, tried to stop this. But Jesus said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (19:14).
Among other things, this implies that age is not a determining factor when it comes to expressing childlikeness. Jesus was telling us that it is natural to express innocency, trust in God, humility, purity, love, gentleness, and unselfishness. Because we are each God's spiritual offspring-man and woman, as well as child-we reflect God. We are all, actually, His children. The qualities that come from God, who is as much a heavenly Mother as a Father, are a natural part of our inheritance.
A book by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, discusses God and Jesus, parenthood and childhood. It is Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. It says: "Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear,-this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony. The purification of sense and self is a proof of progress. 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God' " (pp. 323-324).
I asked myself what it means to leave "false landmarks." I realized the landmarks could be things often associated with adulthood and achievement, but which are not good, but "false." They would include traits such as human will, pride, and selfishness. False landmarks might also include a phenomenon many people accept as inevitable: that with age we somehow lose many of the childlike qualities formerly considered lovely. This does not need to happen. For example, because purity comes from God, who is unchanging, His children cannot lose purity.
It may require a change of heart to be willing to become childlike. Every step toward unselfishness, every step toward humility, every step toward true innocence, enables you to heed that instruction of Jesus about how to live a life of goodness, ". . . of such is the kingdom of heaven." We actually are living in this kingdom to the extent that we obey God, or, in other words, obey the laws of good living set forth in the Bible.
Here are two points of contrast that are helpful in showing that becoming "as a little child" is not in any way a condescending activity. Childlikeness requires humility and courage; it never means being childish. Innocency is a quality that can bring true poise and authority to the one expressing it; it is not the same thing as naivet. No one expressing the childlike qualities Jesus pointed to will risk becoming gullible.
Here's an example of how expressing such qualities can bring practical improvement in daily life. A few hours before I was to go to that same business function I had been suffering from sinus pain. I didn't really want to go, and I prayed about this. The thought came that to be truly unselfish in support of my husband and certain employees receiving awards, it was right for me to attend. I knew it was my right as God's daughter to express joy and love freely to others. Immediately I was free from the pain. In a real way, I'd been striving to leave a "false landmark"-that of suffering.
Continuous spiritual growth is something to be nurtured and cherished. There is no age limit for expressing the qualities that promote this growth. They are ours now.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.