He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mathew 18:1-4 NIV
Our 8-month-old nephew, Nicholas, was just learning to stand. He happily balanced on wobbly legs, then just as happily fell onto his diapered bottom. He moved on to the next attempt—or to the toy that caught his eye as he fell—totally unfazed by his success or failure.
I, on the other hand, can let the smallest failure ruin my day. I tried a new pilates class recently and left in tears because I couldn’t do all the exercises. My discouragement as I compared my efforts to those of others in the class (who were more experienced or simply more fit) put a damper on an otherwise great day.
Nicholas and I both “failed,” in a sense, but Nicholas was unfazed while I was distraught.
So what does an 8-month old have that I’m missing?
Or maybe the question is, what do I have that I need to get rid of, so I can be more like Nicholas?
Nicholas experienced the joy of something new. I traded the joy of new experiences for damaged pride.
My pride led to embarrassment from unmet expectations. My pride experienced fear of being judged for what I couldn’t do. In hanging on to pride, I lost the chance for joy. I traded the joy of learning a new thing for a pride that worried what others might think.
When Jesus told the disciples that they needed to become like little children, he was talking about becoming like the lowliest of people—humbly receiving God’s gift of salvation as those who are helpless to earn it on their own. As those without pride. And as those full of joy for the gift of life.
I wonder how often I have missed the joy that God calls me to because of my pride. I wonder how many times I have missed a chance to grow as a Christian because I was afraid that in trying something new I might look like a fool.
Perhaps if we can remember, when we try something new, that God looks on our efforts as we look at Nicholas—cheering him on with each attempt to stand, heedless of his fall—then we too can be like little children, great in the kingdom of God, and full of joy as we humbly embrace each new experience.
By Sandy MacMillan, Take Heart Director