Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kid Wisdom

Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." Mark 10:15

“Life gets easier and a lot more fun when you use a child as your role model.” Zen to Zany[i]

This week I brought a coloring book home from a work trip and gave it to my four year old.  He immediately said, “Dad, do you want to color with me?”  After two days away, I of course said yes.  Two minutes into it we were swapping crayons, admiring each other’s work, and he looked up at me with a big smile and said, “Isn’t this great, dad?” and went right back to coloring. 
As we colored together a few more minutes, I started listening to the news on TV and wondering if I’d missed any important emails while driving all day, so I sat back on the couch, turned up the TV, checked my phone, and put down my crayon.  As soon as I did, he turned to me and said, “Dad, you’re not coloring.” And I said, “I know,” and he just says, “Why?”

Why, dad? 
In that moment of pure coloring bliss, that moment we’d just locked eyes and agreed was great - why check out of the glory in front of you and go somewhere else in your mind? 

Who’s got living figured out at this moment, the dad or the four year old? 
This is the difference between receiving the kingdom as a child and not receiving it at all.  Look at the text, it’s not about believing like a child, it’s about receiving and entering into the Kingdom of God.  It’s living as though the God of everything is alive and present in everything and everyone and in every moment of your life.  And Jesus says you’ve got to come at it like a child or you are going to completely miss it. 

It’s natural and perfectly normal, but we lose our awareness of the glory all around us the older we get.  I saw a sign once that said “Adulthood is like going to the vet, and we are dogs just happy for a ride in the car until we realize where we are going.”  Life naturally gets more complicated as we go along, but there’s great wisdom in childhood that Jesus says is the secret to the kingdom life. 

So here are a couple of observations from the dad of a four year old about what this kid wisdom and kingdom wisdom is he might be talking about.
First, kids don’t have such robust egos to protect like we do, and they are much happier for it.  They don’t really get offended the way we do.  How much of my life has been spent reeling from being offended by what someone did or said about me? It’s impossible to do away with this ego, but we can take it a little less seriously.

Kids come with a robust ability to forgive.  Kids fight.  Man, do they fight!  But five minutes later, you’d never know there was a cross word between them as they are back playing together.  They just move on.  Think of all the fun and joy of being a kid they’d miss out on if they held grudges against each other the way we do. 
They are able to forgive themselves as well.  Again, with no strong ego to deal with, they just accept what we tell them is the gospel truth – you are loved, you are amazing, everyone makes mistakes, you are wonderfully made exactly as you are.  We tell them and they believe it!  They can accept forgiveness and accept themselves absolutely.  “Yesterday ended at midnight,” as Zig Ziglar used to say.  Move on and stop worrying about a past you can’t change. That’s kid wisdom.

Kids also aren’t fretting about what is ahead of them.  This is kingdom wisdom as well.  “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”  Think also about Mary and Martha.  Martha was running around worrying about fixing up the place and Mary was just enjoying the moment with Jesus.  Jesus tells Martha she’s missed the whole point.  Mary on the other hand, is like a kid enjoying the company of Jesus right in front of her.    
Every day of December my kid would wake up and go, “Is it Christmas day?” and I’d say, “Not yet,” and he’d move on with his day.  This was the biggest thing in his near future, but once he figured out it wasn’t happening today, he left it alone and moved on.  He had a full great day ahead of him to be about the business of living.  There is a deep trust in the goodness of life and the future in this kid wisdom of letting tomorrow take care of itself.*

Not worrying with the past and future leaves what kid and kingdom living is at its core – being completely present to the wonder of the moment right in front of you.  That’s what kids do – they live 150% in the moment.  That’s entering the kingdom as a child, fully awake to life as it is going on right now, right in front of you, with the people right around you in the place you occupy – with all its joy, beauty, hurt, sorrow and holiness shot through it.     

My brother gave my four year old a ninja turtle costume for Christmas that he immediately put on.  After looking in the mirror, he came out with a big smile on his face & said, “Check it out, dad. This is what awesome looks like!”  That’s a kingdom proclamation if I’ve ever heard one.
When kids are really let loose to live life for the day, not cooped up indoors, but let outside to laugh and run and give life all they’ve got, they end the day completely spent.  You may find them asleep on the bathroom floor or in their chair at dinner.  They’ve gone for it.  Linder Unders has some adult advice for living along the same lines: 

All this talk of saving souls,
Souls weren’t meant to save,
Like Sunday clothes that
give out at the seams.
They’re made for wear;
they come with a lifetime guarantee.
Don’t save your soul.
Pour it out like rain
on cracked, parched earth.

Give your soul away,
or pass it like a candle flame.
Sing it out,
or laugh it up the wind.
Souls were meant for hearing
breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams,
remembering August flowers,
forgetting hurts.

These folk who talk of saving souls!
They have the look of bullies
who blow out candles before you
sing happy birthday,
and want the world to be in alphabetical order.
I will spend my soul,
Playing it out like sticky string
Into the world …
So I can catch every last thing I touch.

Next time someone asks, “Is your soul saved?”
Say, “No, it’s spent, spent, spent!”

Pour it out.  Don’t hold it back.  Put yesterday to bed and let tomorrow take care of itself; you’ve got a wonderful today full of God’s glory waiting to be discovered in the kingdom life.  That’s kid wisdom and kingdom wisdom. 
It really is easier and a lot more fun when you’ve got a child as your role model and when you enter into the kingdom as a child. 

You may just catch yourself, fully present to a glorious day, looking around saying, “You know what? This is what awesome looks like.”

[i]  Jan 6, 2015
[ii] Linder Unders, “Are you saved?”