And he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”- Matthew 18:3
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”- Pablo Picasso
I completed my elementary/secondary student teaching practicum during the winter quarter of my senior year at Concordia Teachers College in River Forest, Illinois. My elementary experience was with Diane Stuhlmacher’s first and second graders at Zion Lutheran School in Chicago. Toward the end of my five week internship, Miss Stuhlmacher instructed each student to “secretly” draw a picture of me, often approaching their subject to take a closer look. Completed impressions then were assembled into a class portfolio. It was presented to me on my last day with them. While most drawings were typical of six and seven year olds, one picture stood out. Georgette’s 7+ inch high figure didn’t miss a detail- from my brown hair and glasses to the distinctive pattern in my belt (my hands were behind my back).
Young children bring exuberance and a sense of wonder to learning. John Ortberg (The Life You’ve Always Wanted) writes that preoccupation with self keeps adults from experiencing joy. The minutes of life are divided into two categories: living and waiting to live. We literally are killing time, unable to pour ourselves out for the joy of others or delighting in the infinite variety of small gifts God daily offers us. Yet, the joy the happiest child shows is but a fraction of the joy that resides in God’s heart, as G. K. Chesterton speaks of in Orthodoxy:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is . . . . It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon.”
Compatibility with pain is one test of authentic joy. Worldly joy always is joy “in spite of” something. Theologian Karl Barth characterized joy as a “defiant nevertheless” slamming the door against bitterness and resentment. It is an illusion to believe that joy will come someday when conditions change. Today is the day to know joy. We, like little children, can be joy-carriers!