Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” – Matthew 19:14 (NRSV)
Everyone wants to know exactly what it is about children that makes them rulers of the kingdom of heaven. Their innocence? Their playfulness? Their powerlessness? Their neotenous features?
Weird that no one ever mentions as possibilities: screaming tantrums. The hitting phase, the biting phase, the kicking phase. The “I won’t eat that; it’s yucky!” phase. Pulling the cat’s tail, pulling the sibling’s hair. The “NO!” phase, the lying phase. The tween nastiness, the teenage need to push the parents away.
I for one would feel much better if that’s the kind of childishness Jesus had in mind, instead of all that cutesy, schmaltzy stuff.
If you get cranky when you don’t get your nap or your snack, the kingdom of heaven belongs to you.
If you’re impulsive and do dumb stuff sometimes, the realm of God is yours.
If you can’t get your body to do what you want, if you run into stuff and fall down a lot, yours is the promised land.
If you lash out sometimes; if you’re sometimes contrary for no apparent reason; if you have big emotions and can only act them out, not describe them; if you’re not quite as self-reflective as you might be, it is to such as you that the kingdom of belongs.
Some idealized version of childhood as an impossible aspiration sounds awful. But an assurance that acting like a child even when you know better doesn’t exclude you from God’s promises? That would be excellent news.
You and I both know that my chance at neotenous features is long gone, so thanks for assuring me that you love me even when I act like a three-year-old. Amen.