The following reflections were inspired by George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermon, The Child in the Midst:
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!”