Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Become Like A Little Child Again

"Believe, unless you become like little children again, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3)

(Jesus Clip Art Found Here)

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I often wondered in my growing years how one becomes a little child again. I knew this was figurative speech but I still wasn't sure about the mentality of it all.

Caryll Houselander, a 20th century mystic and visionary, describes it better than anyone I've yet to read:

"It is encouraging and pleasing that Our Lord does not tell us to remain, but to become, as little children. And that it is little children we are told to become like, not adolescents.

"An ordinary child, who has not been warped by ill treating or spoiling is, until he is ten years old, a more complete human being that he will ever be again. He possesses humility and simplicity, in the true sense of those much-abused words. He has the capacity for total joy and total surrender. ... His reactions to other people are absolute, his love is without alloy. His trust is without question or doubt. His values are true; he is untouched by the materialism of gorwn-up people. ... He is in favour of those things which are useful and beautiful --- or both --- and which in some way mean communion with adults. For the little child loves adults, wholly behind their deserts. ...

"Humility, which cannot be separated from real simplicity, is part of young childhood. Children do not become bitter because they are treated as little and insignificant: they take it for granted they are so, and to them it is as necessary to love and to be loved as it is to eat and drink...

"To go back to childhood means that we must get back true values, instead of those that are based on materialism, public opinion and snobbery; that we must regain simplicity and humility, that we must become makers and poets again, that we must regain the capacity to experience fully what ever we experience at all; and, above all, we must regain the courage that is partly a boundless zest for living and partly an unquestioning trust in an all-powerful love.

"...

"Those who fail to grow up do not remain children. What happens to them is this: they become fixed in their adolescence. They remain emotionally and mentally incomplete all their lives --- perpetual adolescents...

"The perpetual adolescent does not grow up because he --- or she --- is afraid to do so. Afraid of life: of grown-up responsibilities, of working for a living, of independence, of making decisions, of taking risks; afraid of falling in love, of making a home, of having children; afraid of sickness, of growing old and of dying.

"Our Lord's words are  a challenge. To become a child is a challenge to our courage. It demands, first of all, that we dare to grow up, to give ourselves to life, to accept life as it is --- and above all, to accept ourselves as we are...

"One immediate result of accepting ourselves as we are --- which is becoming simple --- is that we stop striving to reach a goal which means becoming something that the world admires, but which is not really worth while. Instead we realize the things that really do contribute to our happiness, and work for those. ... we cease to want to be rich or successful or popular, and want instead the things that satisfy our deeper instincts; to be at home, to make things with our hands, to have time to see and wonder at the beauty of the earth, to love and to be loved. ...

"To accept oneself as one is; to accept life as it is: these are the two basic elements of childhood's simplicity and humanility."

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And how do we learn to accept ourselves and life as it is? you ask.

It takes wisdom. Lots and lots of wisdom. Radical Wisdom, if you will.
And prayer, because we must pray to get there.

Advent is almost upon us and promises a perfect season within the Church-year to focus on what it means to be child-like in faith once again.

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