'And a little child shall lead them...'
There's a good reason why children have a special place in the heart of God - and, as Heather Skull reflects, they have much to teach us
The other night I was watching Despicable Me. It was a film I’d been meaning to watch for some time but had just never got around to it, although I had seen the sequel. (Yes, I know, that’s the wrong way to do it but that’s the way my life is sometimes…)
Anyway, I’m not going to put any spoilers in this blog in case you’re the other person in the world who hasn’t seen it. Suffice it to say that part of the plot revolves around the relationship between the grumpy villain and the three children he adopts to use for carrying out one of his dastardly plans.
He – and his slightly weird dog and the even stranger Minions – are determined to keep aloof from these three little girls. But gradually they are all brought closer together through the child-like innocence with which the children greet everything they come across.
And – of course – in the end, the villain Gru sees what we’ve known all along, that these children have got into his heart and he can’t let them go.
There is something about childlike innocence that is very endearing. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s because most of us have lost ours and long for those days when we greeted everything with a child-like wonder.
I’ve tried to hold onto mine. Living life to the full includes the awe and excitement of watching a sunrise day after day after day. I hope I never lose the thrill of spotting deer and hares in the valley while my train wends its way through the Wiltshire countryside. I hope I never lose that feeling you get when you unexpectedly meet a friend. Or the joy of listening to a piece of music that touches the heart.
Childlike is very different from childish. Childlike is outward-looking, the joyous acceptance of the blessings that surround us. Childish is the inward-facing selfish assumption that everything has to be as we want it now.
I completely understand that children aren’t always endearing. I know there are days when children can be obstinate, grumpy, whingy and whiney hard work. But then so can we.
We think we have a lot to pass onto our children but communication is a two way process and they have a lot to give us.
I’ve been very blessed to work with children in a voluntary capacity for more than 20 years. I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t admit that sometimes it’s been harder work than I would’ve liked. But I’d do it all again for the times that those children have amazed and surprised me from asking if they could do some fundraising by sleeping out in the church to the unexpected words of thanks in letters and emails.
Last Sunday morning I was given another reminder of the blessings of the childlike approach. As I played Matt Redman’s song ’10,000 Reasons’ on the piano before the service began, I suddenly became aware of a small presence by my side.
A little girl had slipped out of her seat and was watching me play. I began to sing the song to her and she joined in with her face all aglow with real joy. As I sang, I thought of the picture her mother had posted of her on Facebook just the day before of this child in hospital. This is a girl who humanly speaking has had more than her fair share of challenges.
And yet, here she is singing with all her heart and soul the words from Matt’s song, ‘Bless the Lord, o my soul.’ When she got to the line, ‘Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes,’ my vision blurred slightly with tears at the way she sang it with such joy in her expression.
This little girl isn’t perfect. She’s a normal little girl who no doubt occasionally drives the rest of her family to distraction. But her joyous approach to life provides a salutary lesson for me about why a childlike heart matters.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever feel sad or angry or depressed. That would be ridiculous and go against everything that it means to be a human, fully alive. I think what this little girl’s attitude really teaches us is to keep looking up, to keep plodding on and – most of all – to keep on singing. Preferably in the company of children.
Picture: RGB Stock
Heather Skull is a former BBC Radio Wiltshire journalist and a member of Trowbridge Baptist Church in Wiltshire. She blogs at tractorgirl66.wordpress.com, where this article first appeared