August 20, 2009
The Child's Calling by Hännah Schlaudt, Crosswalk.com Editorial Assistant
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." -- Matthew 18:1-4, ESV
I've never understood this passage better than since I met Aiden. Aiden is almost three, but because he has Down's Syndrome, he functions mentally and physically more like an 18-month old. With a stumping toddle, a baby-belly, and thick glasses, he looks like a wee old man -- until he howls with laughter and steals my heart again.
This winter, a friend's struggle with depression was encapsulated when he said: "All I know is that I've never felt so old." I've noticed this too. When I'm striving to be righteous, when I'm bitter, when grace eludes my sight -- it is then that I feel dry and withered and old. Weariness and discouragement weigh down on the soul.
Aiden intrigues me. He can't really talk yet, but he still earnestly babbles at me with all the inflections and sounds of a conversation. He greets people -- everyone, not just those he knows -- with outstretched arms, a crinkle-faced grin, and "Hiiiii! Hiiiiiiiiiiii!" His siblings and parents get the most tender hugs and kisses from him, and even though I'm just a babysitter, I get my face patted and fierce bear hugs.
Light and music and people are Aiden's favorite things. He dances to DC Talk and Shania Twain with abandon. He laughs until he's nearly in tears over the rainbows cast on the stairs by a chandelier and the afternoon sunlight. And he likes making beards with the bathtub bubbles, just because it makes his sisters giggle.
Delight and trust come easily to this little fellow. He can't understand much, or communicate with folks, but he loves everyone and roars with laughter over the smallest joys. He's only known me a few weeks, but he trusts me. Even when he's being punished for throwing his food, his sunshine joy isn't quenched.
My walk with my Savior ought to be similarly marked, as this passage in Matthew suggests. The humility of a child is in his trust. When I know that I can't do it, when I confess my sin, when I ask the Lord to help me -- then I validate the gospel as I demonstrate my confidence in Jesus. Am I living as I believe he is who he said he is?
My friend's comment about feeling old is true. When I act as if I'm responsible for my standing before God, when I put all my priorities first and forget to ask the Lord what his agenda is, when I refuse forgiveness to another because it's my right -- I'm not faithful to the child's calling. I'm a citizen of the upside-down kingdom of heaven, and if it's true, I have to live it. If God is my Father and Aiden's humble love is my model, then that ancient weariness is broken, and I can walk in the light.