The Child in the Midst

And he came to Capernaum: and, being in the house, he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them; and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
— Mark 9:33-37

The God who is ever uttering himself in the changeful profusions of nature; who takes millions of years to form a soul that shall understand him and be blessed; who never needs to be, and never is, in haste; who welcomes the simplest thought of truth or beauty as the return for seed he has sown upon the old fallows of eternity, who rejoices in the response of a faltering moment to the age-long cry of his wisdom in the streets; the God of music, of painting , of building, the Lord of Hosts, the God of mountains and oceans; whose laws go forth from one unseen point of wisdom, and thither return without an atom of loss; the God of history working in time unto Christianity; this God is the God of little children, and he alone can be perfectly, abandonedly simple and devoted. The deepest, purest love of a woman has its well-spring in him. Our longing desires can no more exhaust the fullness of the treasures of the Godhead than our imagination can touch their measure. Of him not a thought, not a joy, not a hope of one of his creatures can pass unseen; and while one of them remains unsatisfied, he is not Lord over all. 

Commentary

by Diane Adams

My eight-year-old was up a tree in the backyard. It was a clear, cold day. His cheeks were red from the wind and exercise. He called out to me, his voice high with the triumph of reaching the top, “Mom!”, he shouted, “Look at all of this. Now I know why God made the world. He just wants us to have fun in it. Look at it all; it’s made just like a playground with trees to climb and rocks for slides. He gave it to us for us to play in; he wants us to have fun!”.

I wasn’t really having fun, sitting outside halfway watching him, with a million worries in my head, dealing with the reality of living every day with an illness that was tearing my life and body apart. I was not feeling it. I looked up at him, and his eyes were glowing with excitement, his face bent down to see what I would say, hopeful, so innocent and beautifully simple. In that moment, I saw he understood something about God that I did not.

There was a moment of decision, something offered that I could take or to refuse. The simple plan of God, to give us good things, to make us feel loved and happy and excited by all he has done or my own burdened thoughts--the gift of a child’s delight against my adult vision of ‘reality’, cold and expected, hard and painful. I stood up and went over to the tree, turned and looked out, trying to see what he saw.

The wind was tearing over the field in back, bending the branches, ripping at the brown, dying grasses. The sky was crystal blue and endless. I chose to take the gift, to see God in that moment together with my son. I imagined his delight, holding out the world to us, saying with wonder and expectation, “Go on, open it”.

Could it be that God has something of the same heart as the boy in the tree? Is there a God who laughs when the wind blows, rejoices to see his children play, even a God who is not above playing himself? The childlike expectation that the world is a good place, that people are kind, that fun is important, does not come from us alone. It comes from something deep in the fabric of creation, is something every child is born knowing, and it tells us something about the maker himself. No one can create what he does not know.

So it would seem, and so Jesus taught when he told us to become like a child, and so MacDonald understood when he wrote, “God is the God of little children”. The childlike vision is the God-like vision. In the heart of a child is an unbounded playfulness, a joyful freedom from self and the daily expectation of hurts and troubles. Every child knows simply and without the confusion of thought that of course God wants us to play! He made the world like a playground! In his heart there is a joyful conspirator, very much like an eight-year-old, hoping that we will choose the perspective that climbs trees and has fun and shouts to those struggling below, “Look! Look at all of this!”