Becoming Like Little Children


Jesus tells us that only those who come like little children will enter the kingdom of God. I’ve heard so many ideas about what that actually means. Here’s one I found helpful:

“It becomes very evident why our Lord tells us to become as little children (Mt 18:3), and what is involved in it; we can see how it is related to the theme of vacate, taking a break from being God, to let him be God. Little children do not have piles of important correspondence on their desks, nor rows of shiny telephones to handle all their important business transactions. Becoming as a little child means unlearning the false solemnity of adolescence, unlearning the false maturity and self-importance of ideology and puritanism. It means forgetting to run the world, forgetting to run one another’s lives. It means forgetting even to run our own lives.” (Tugwell, Simon. Prayer: Living With God. Springfield: Templegate Publishers, 1975, p. 39.)

So Tugwell highlights that aspect of children where they recognize their non-responsibility, but not irresponsibility. Children are not self-important nor self-sufficient. They don’t tend to think more highly of themselves than is supported by circumstances. It isn’t until later childhood and adolescence that self-importance seems to surface. Children rarely think of themselves as being responsible for the world around them like adults tend to do.

Father, how are You inviting me to resign from my pretending to be You? How are You wishing for me to find freedom from my own ideas, my own rules, my own imagined kingdom? How will I welcome Your way of life to reign in me? How will this find fruitful expression in the practical engagements of my life?

Here are a few past posts on the same theme:

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Learning to Live Grace


Often, my journaling takes me to places of reflecting on what it means to “live grace” along the way. Part of me has oddly expected that my need for grace would somehow diminish over time, that I would “get things together” more and more until my daily need for grace was a distant memory from my more “immature years” as a Christian. Maybe my reflections below will help you reflect on your own grace journey.

1 Samuel 2:6-8
“The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
“For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
upon them he has set the world.

As I reflect on Hannah’s humble prayer, I realize that there are some things God sends that I don’t really like. For example, I only want God to send seasons of want to the “bad guys,” but sometimes your faithful people have lived with little as well.

Paul shared with the Philippians that he had learned deep contentment right in the middle of unfulfilled needs, unmet hungers and unaddressed wants (Philippians 4:10-12). I find contentment easier when I am circumstantially satisfied. Who wouldn’t! It seems God allows a great variety of welcome and unwelcome places in my spiritual journey so that I learn that He alone is my Portion and Treasure.

Praying: “Father, You are also the One Who humbles and exalts each one as You wish. Recently, I was talking with a friend about the hunger for honor and recognition I find often rising up within me. I forget that true honor comes from You. Can I come to rest here? Enable me to recognize that You alone give true honor. May my honor come as my life, by Your grace, comes to honor You more and more.”

“He lifts the needy from the ash heap.” I don’t like that phrase “the needy.” I’m happy to have a random need here or there, but I surely don’t want to think of myself as needy. I don’t want to admit that I have many needs or deep needs. I’m slowly learning, though, that my needs are where I receive grace. Grace seeks places of brokenness, weakness and emptiness to touch, heal and fill. Can I learn to boast, with Paul, about my weaknesses, rather than always trying to show off what I think are my strengths (2 Corinthians 12:10)?

(Read part two of this repost from May 2009)

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A Kingdom of Children


“The kingdom is already granted to little children, not, I think because of the subjective qualities that we tend to appreciate in them, such as their cuteness, their smallness, or their playfulness. The kingdom is theirs, I suspect, because objectively they are vulnerable, weak, lowly, and helpless. Left to themselves, they would die. This “leastness,” I submit, is their title-deed to the highest place in the kingdom of God, the same God who once became an infant for us, who became “least” for us on the cross.” (John Chryssavgis. Soul Mending: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2000, p. 6.)

Jesus’s statement that unless we become like little children we won’t even enter the kingdom of heaven (let alone be the greatest there) doesn’t make much sense if child-like cuteness, playfulness or littleness were in focus. Instead, Chryssavgis suggests it is helplessness, vulnerability, weakness and humble state that makes children perfect candidates of grace in God’s eyes.

For Reflection:

  • How am I being inviting to childlikeness today? How might I be childlike in my living, my relating, my working? Not childish, but child-like.

(Repost from September 2010)

Buy a copy of Soul Mending on Amazon.com

A Kingdom of Children


“The kingdom is already granted to little children, not, I think because of the subjective qualities that we tend to appreciate in them, such as their cuteness, their smallness, or their playfulness. The kingdom is theirs, I suspect, because objectively they are vulnerable, weak, lowly, and helpless. Left to themselves, they would die. This “leastness,” I submit, is their title-deed to the highest place in the kingdom of God, the same God who once became an infant for us, who became “least” for us on the cross.” (John Chryssavgis. Soul Mending: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2000, p. 6.)

Jesus’s statement that unless we become like little children we won’t even enter the kingdom of heaven (let alone be the greatest there) doesn’t make much sense if child-like cuteness, playfulness or littleness were in focus. Instead, Chryssavgis suggests it is helplessness, vulnerability, weakness and humble state that makes children perfect candidates of grace in God’s eyes.

For Reflection:

  • How am I being inviting to childlikeness today? How might I be childlike in my living, my relating, my working? Not childish, but child-like.

Buy a copy of Soul Mending on Amazon.com

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