If I were to ask you what your earliest memory was, what age would you have been? Where were you? Why does that memory stick?
I have always been blessed with both a good memory and good memories. I have had family members verify that isolated memories as far back as eighteen months of age were not figments of my imagining! I understand why some of them were formed, such as a grease fire in my mother’s kitchen that she smothered with a towel, being dressed up for my younger brother’s dedication service (christening) — I managed to spoil my new clothes with oil that day, but that’s a story for another time! I remember a trip to London for my uncle’s wedding — I remember nothing of the wedding, but the underground tube trains made an indelible impression on me! Toddlers’ minds are like sponges, soaking up new information about the world and storing it for future use or avoidance.
I remember the first prayer I ever uttered. I had no motivation for doing so except that my parents started the habit of nightly prayers as soon as I could talk. Of course, I don’t remember ever not being able to talk, and that makes it hard to pin down the date, but I absolutely know which words I repeated after my mother. Those words were written by Charles Wesley (youngest of eighteen children!) in 1742 A.D. and had been in use for over 200 years before the sponge of my mind absorbed them. Wesley added stanzas over the years until 1763 ending with a total of 14 verses. My parents thought two stanzas were enough to get my prayer life off the ground.
Here they are just as I remember them:
“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild Look upon a little child; Pity my simplicity, Suffer me to come to Thee.
Fain I would to Thee be brought Precious Lamb, forbid it not; In the kingdom of thy grace Grant a little child a place.” — Charles Wesley 1742
After those words came a litany of people I implored God to bless, including my parents, siblings, friends, pets and toys — nothing was off-limits! I honor the memory of godly parents.
I bring this up because of that line, “suffer me to come to Thee” which is one the most remarkable teachings of Jesus.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all feel compelled to write about a specific incident concerning parents, children and disciples. A fact that seems to be lost on most Jesus-followers is that the record we have in the New Testament is only a tiny segment of all Jesus said and did. Gospel writer John ends his story with these words:
“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25 NLT
So the gospel writers obviously only wrote about those events that were significantly imprinted on the memories!
Here’s Matthew’s recounting of the incident:
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. Matthew 19:13-15 NLT [Now that’s a memory I wish I had!]
Much of Jesus’ teaching focussed on what the Kingdom of Heaven would be like, but here He gives an unambiguous description of the character of its inhabitants — they will be childlike (not child-ish).
Child-like in that there is no ego or pride at play; there is a willingness to accept direction; there is a simplicity of needs and wants; there is a desire to be nurtured and loved; there is unbridled enthusiasm for today’s activity or lesson; there is simple joy in gaining the approval of the teacher! It’s like being back in kindergarten!
I think this may be what Reverend Robert Fulghum had in mind when he wrote these oft-quoted words:
Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little green seed in the plastic cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup – they all die. So do we. … Think of what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and cleaned up our own messes.
And it is still true; no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together!
Robert Fulghum — “All I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten”
It is obvious that Jesus doesn’t want the “grown-ups’ attitudes” getting in the way!
He says to bring the kids. He says don’t stop the kids. He says bless the kids. He says be like the kids! He says the Kingdom of Heaven will be populated with folks with a faith like kids!
I used to tell my grandkids that I may look like a grownup, but I’m really just a big kid. I hope they come to realize that I mean that differently than the more obvious surface meaning.
Let’s all be child-like and sit on Jesus’ lap and be blessed!
That’s what Heaven is like!
Jesus told me.
Three times! (Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-14, Luke 18:15-16)
By the way — Luke adds a warning from Jesus:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 NLT
It’s easier if you just start with, “Heavenly Father….”!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/?category=Bible%20Study