Childhood Is Not a Disease

The following is an article printed some years ago and suggested by Pastor Barksdale as our church family moves into the summer months.

Childhood Is Not a Disease

by Wes & Sheryl Haystead

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” (Matthew 19:14, NIV)

The most striking thing about Jesus’ encounter with these little ones is not that He interrupted an adult meeting to take time for some children.  Nor is it surprising that He physically picked up the children and loved them.  The remarkable part of this incident is Jesus’ words.  Most adults would have said something like “Let the little children come to me, and don’t prevent them, for some day they will grow up and become important.”

Jesus saw something in childhood besides the future.  He recognized worth and value in the state of being a child, for He told the waiting adults in this crowd that children are important for what they are right now – “For of such is the kingdom of Heaven.”

We adults always seem to be looking to the future.  This push for preparation robs childhood of much of its essence, as parents and teachers urge little ones hurriedly through the present in search of a more significant future.  

The Future Is Now

“I know it’s hard for a three-year-old to sit quietly and listen, but I have to start getting him ready for later when he will have to sit still.”  “If he’s going to be a success in life he’ll have to go to college.  And to make sure he can stay ahead in school, I’m going to teach him to read before he starts first grade if it kills us both!” “If a child is going to grow up with an appreciation for the great hymns of the church, you just can’t start too young to teach them.”

These and many similar statements are used repeatedly by parents and teachers who are earnestly concerned about helping young children get ready for future roles and demands.  However, most adults tend to converse over the tops of children heads, making children feel like outsiders.These well-meaning adults sometimes actually do 

more harm than good, because in their long-range view of growth they have lost sight of the value in just being a child.

Children are more than people in transition, waiting for some future date of real meaning.  The qualities that come from being young are not flaws or imperfections.  Rather, childhood is a marked and definable stage of development.

“But an adult has so many capabilities and accomplishments far beyond those of a child.  Surely the years of productive and responsible adulthood are more significant than those of infancy and early childhood.”

What adult experiences could replace the laughter of children that gladdens the hearts of all who hear?  How many hours of labor would it take to equal a little girl’s smile?  What a sterile world this would be were children not present to add their unique joys and sorrows!

The Value of a Child

Has any parent ever seen more deeply into him- or herself than when holding a newborn child and looking into the child’s eyes?  All the writings and research of humankind couldn’t provide the insights that come with reliving the experiences of a child starting out on his or her own unique adventure.  The child’s fresh enthusiasm for everything seen, the child’s honest questions and powerfully simple logic, all combine to peel the scales from our encrusted adult eyes.

What is the value of a child-as a child?   Incalculable!

This is no plea for attempting to stop the progress of maturation.  It is a call to recognize that just because a phase of life is brief, and is replaced by another more sophisticated, we should not rush past it.  For if we bypass the unique stages of childhood, we strip each succeeding developmental stage of some of its finest ingredients.  The best preparation for any phase of life is the proper completion of the previous one.  The second coat of paint must always wait for the first to dry.  Harvest never begins when the first green shoots appear in the spring.  Human life has an aching void when childhood is squeezed away.

Is this what Jesus had in mind when He took a small child in His arms and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, NIV)?  Is there a place in our homes and churches for children to be children?  Do we wholeheartedly accept them as they are, not as we wish they were?  Do the rooms and materials we provide sound out “Welcome!” to a young learner?  Are the adults who surround young children deeply sympathetic and understanding of what these special years are all about?  

Or do we merely see little ones in terms of their potential, enduring them until they get old enough to really matter?  Is the church’s objective in providing children’s ministries a means of attracting their parents, or of getting ready for the church of tomorrow?  Is our goal to train young children to act like miniature adults because their noisy spontaneity may somehow mar our sacred corridors?

W.C. Fields wrung many laughs from his famous line, “Anyone who hates dogs and kids can’t be all bad?”  But have you ever met a person who wanted to live in a world where everyone shared Field’s dislike of children?

It’s far better to follow the Lord Jesus’ pattern with children.  His loving response to the children lets us see into His heart’s feeling of the worth of a young life.

Childhood is not a disease to be cured or endured.  It is a God-ordained part of human life with value and significance that continually enriches the experiences of those who may have forgotten what it is like to see the world from a fresh, unspoiled point of view.

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