Like little children


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!




About the author

    Dave Henning

  • Avatar Georgette L. Greenlee says:

    I am the 7 year old child who drew the incredibly detailed picture of Mr. Hennings (nearly 43 years removed) from my favorite package of 32 Crayola Crayons. The picture would not have been possible without the nurturing embrace of Ms. Stuhlmacher’s 1st and 2nd grade classroom at Zion Lutheran School! The children who attended Zion were incredibly blessed.

    Young children do bring a sense of exuberance to learning and to life. Reading this article and viewing this picture stirred within me a glimpse at my core motivations at that age. Every morning I greeted the day with an unbridled and hopeful expectations. There was no such thing as monotony. When you’re 7 years old every day is a new day.

    Back then I dreamed of one day becoming an artist. It was the first vocation to which I aspired. And no one at Zion told me that my dreams weren’t possible. They just gave me lots of crayons and told me that every drawing was a masterpiece. By the time I was 8 I had decided that I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to one day be President of the United States of America. I wanted to help the world be a better place. I never stopped drawing but I no longer aspired to live out my dreams on canvas.

    I am beyond delighted to become reacquainted with that precious and precocious 7 year old girl and to realize that her art made an impact. I had no idea that my picture gift would find such a loving “home” on the walls of Mr. Henning’s classrooms over the next three decades. Aspirations, dreams, hopes and visions are amazing God-given vehicles. Indeed little does become much when you place it in God’s hands.

  • Avatar Cathi Foster says:

    This is why you always lay out seeds, you never know where they will root and when you will come upon the flower that you planted years earlier. What a wonderful story and to know the artist and see what an amazing person she become later on is truly a blessing!!! Thank you both for sharing and reminding all if us to keeping planting those seeds!

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