In a recent post, entitled “Making our Hearts a Manger,” one of my friends, Brad Trnavsky, shared an interesting insight. He commented that “when we were children all of our hearts were like that (a place for the Savior)… As you get older it’s harder to see past our own bias and prejudice.” Later that day when I was speaking with him he further shared insight on how his own daughter has no biases and that she “would share her lollipop with anyone.”
In the Bible, Paul shares a similar insight in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “when I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things…now we see through a glass, darkly…”
I thought about my life and how various experiences have led me to “see through dark glass,” as Paul describes. I then asked myelf what “childish things” have I put away? I don’t remember a whole lot about myself as a child and my perspective is different than someone from the outside looking in. I wanted to get some insight on how I was as a child and thought my parents would be the best people to consult. I emailed them and here is the feedback I received from my father:
“As a very young child, you were pretty inquisitive. You were always getting in to things, and making messes in the process. I remember that one time you got into the diaper pail and had dirty diapers scattered all over the house. You were just sitting in the middle of it all having a blast. You were always asking questions. If we went to the movies, you were quite a pain to have there because we couldn’t watch a movie for you asking questions. We’d always say, “Just watch the movie and listen and you’ll find the answer. You were also pretty tender hearted, and felt bad for things that were hurt. You loved us to read books to you. It didn’t matter what kind of books they were. You were also reading by the time you went to kindergarten. One thing that you loved was horses. You would always just make your way over the their corral and just watch them. You loved to ride them. Another thing that you liked was being outdoors. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, you wanted to be out. We put the fence up in the back for that purpose. If I was mowing the lawn, or driving the tractor, you had to be on their riding with me. We mowed lots of grass together, and cleaned lots of stalls riding on the tractor together…One thing that you really didn’t like was contention…Your were also very bright and loved to watch the stars, and play with the cats that we had. The main thing I remember about you during those years and beyond was you felt responsible to be a good example and to try to be a problem solver…”
As I read this, it brought back memories and humbled me. First, I thought of how inquisitive children are and as a child I wasn’t scared or inhibited in searching for new knowledge no matter where it was. In the early years learning and growing are all children are doing and the world is like water and kids are like sponges soaking it all in. I asked myself how do I view the world today? Am I still searching for knowledge and learning and growing or do I think I have it all figured out. Worse, have I allowed the “dark glass” of prejudice or things other people have said or done to me to hinder me from progressing? As a child, I wanted to learn, grow, and find answers. I didn’t care what people thought even if it was in a movie theater!
Next, being tender hearted is a good quality of most children. How am I doing in that category now? Do I know how my friends and family are doing/feeling? Do I care about their needs above my own or am I too wrapped up in my work or what I think is important to me to stop and make a phone call, or pause while my wife or friends are talking to me in the middle of doing something, etc.? How about the people I help at church? Do I really care about how they’re doing? What about the world? Do I pray for and care about people in other nations or communities that do not have as much as I do or am I too busy with other things?
I’ll have to admit I love the smell of fresh grass to this day and perhaps the reason is because of the many rides my father and I took on the lawn mower. Something I’ve also learned from my mother is to appreciate nature. She’ll call me and tell me about a neat view of Mt Rainier or when a full moon is out or she sees a blue heron flying (this is her favorite bird). Children are the same way as I was as a kid. They appreciate and love playing outside. They love God’s creations as I loved horses, cats, and the outdoors. I feel maintaining this simple awe for nature and respect is a very important characteristic to maintain in order to fully appreciate God.
Finally, my father says as a kid I wanted to be a problem solver. Being the oldest, I do remember feeling a sense of responsibility. I ask myself this question now. If something is wrong do I take initiative to fix the problem or do I wait for someone else to fix it?
This excersize was very good for me because it allowed me to reflect and remember that I am essentially still a child and don’t know as much as I usually think I do. Even though I’m older, I’m still a child learning and growing. The more I remember this and internalize this, the better off I’ll be.
In addition to these practical implications, the Savior shares spiritual and eternal implications of being as a child. The scriptures share some great insights, which I will share.
1. (Mosiah 3:19) As a natural man, I am an enemy to God unless I become like a child: humble, meek, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to everything the Lord asks me to do.
2. (Luke 9:48) If I receive the Lord like a child I will be “great in the kingdom of God.” For me this is basically the same concept of being humble and submissive to the Lord.
3. (Mark 10: 13-16) In this verse, Jesus’ disciples “rebuke” those who brought children with them to see Jesus. Jesus reprimands His disciples and says “suffer the children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God.” He further goes on to say that unless they receive the kingdom as a little child they can not enter into His kingdom and he blesses them.
3 Nephi 9:22 is very similar to the verses in Mark as well. In 3 Nephi, Jesus tells the people on the American continent that unless they repent and become as a child they won’t inheret the kingdom of God. Notice that He adds that repentance is necessary for us to become as a child and therefore inherit God’s kingdom.
4. (3 Nephi 11:37-40) In this scripture Jesus informs the people that not only humbling oneself as a child and repentance are necessary, but baptism is also necessary to inherit the kingdom of God. Verse 39 also states that this is Christ’s doctrine and whosoever builds on this doctrine is built on a rock (i.e. a solid foundation).
5. (3 Nephi 17:21-25) In my opinion, these scriptures are some of the most touching scriptures we have. Here, Jesus prays and blesses the peoples’ children one by one and weeps because of the love and joy he has for them. It shows how much love Jesus has for children and it sheds some further light on the joy he must feel when we decide to humble ourselves like a child and submit to Him so he can bless us. This is probably why the prophet Moroni stated that “children are alive in Christ.” I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than being able to say that I am alive in Christ with confidence. When I focus on becoming as a child I am progressing towards this goal.
In conclusion, I invite you to either reflect on your childhood or ask your parents to provide you some insight on what you were like as a child. Or if you have children look to them as an example. Consider some of the “childish things you’ve put away” and pray and reflect on what you can do to incorporate them back into your life. The promises are great if we can remember to become as a child by removing the dark glasses we see through and learn to see as a child.