The extra banana cake I made was going to make a special gift for a neighbor. At least, that was the plan. My children and I knocked on the doors of the houses of neighbors #1, #2, and #3, but they didn’t answer. Number 4’s car was not in the driveway. Sweating in the suffocating humidity of the deep south, we marched up the driveway of neighbor #5 and rang the doorbell. I was relieved to see that she was home. As soon as I told her we had a banana cake for her, my honest child piped up and said, “We’ve walked all up and down this street looking for someone who was home to take our cake!” And with that, my hopes that neighbor #5 would feel special went up in smoke.
The episode made me reflect on the question: in what ways would our lives be different if we, as adults, were as honest as children? Here is the top 10 list, for better and for worse:
10. GIFTS. You would announce to the person giving you a present that you already have one of those. Or, if you weren’t too crazy about it, you would just set it aside and move on to the next gift.
9. HYGIENE. You would not hesitate to tell a room full of people that you need to go poo-poo.
8. MEALS. All food served to you by a host or hostess would be subject to either of the following two declarations: “This looks yucky,” or, “But we had that yesterday.”
7. POSSESSIONS. If someone was holding something that you wanted, like an iPad, you would just take it from them. And then it would be yours.
6. LEARNING. Unafraid to hide your curiosity, you would ask unanswerable questions. Lots of them. To your hubby: “Honey, why are you using that screwdriver? Who invented it? What did they do before they had screwdrivers? Can I do that? Would this hurt me if I poked myself with it?”
5. OBSERVATIONS. "Look, that person is _______." (Fill in the blank with all sorts of descriptive, colorful, embarrassing adjectives.)
4. HUNGER. If you got hungry enough, you would cry. People would be lined up on their lunch break at Chick-Fil-A…bawling.
3. ASSERTIVENESS. You would let it be widely known how you feel about people, circumstances, changes, and responsibilities. To your boss: “But I don’t WANT to do that report!”
2. NEEDS. You would not hide your own needs from others, out of pride or embarrassment.
1. LOVE. You would never shrink back from showing it.
With maturity comes the ability to stifle our childlike inclinations that are more forthright than they probably should be. But it also brings the tendencies to close ourselves up. In some ways, we can be thankful that we don’t say everything we’re thinking like they do. They have no guile at all, and even less coordination. (What if adults fell down as much as they did?)
But we are not too old to learn a few things from them, certainly not in the areas of possessions or hygiene, but definitely in giving and receiving love. They have no difficulty giving hugs, snuggling up to their loved ones, or stating their affection in simple terms: “You’re the best momma I’ve ever had.”
Perhaps the clearest demonstration of this is the way they receive the kingdom. Jesus said in Mark 10:15, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." They receive it in faith, not hiding anything because they don’t even know how to do that. They are unashamed. They simply and honestly respond to God’s gracious love extended to them. No wonder Jesus named children, rather than adults (who know so much more by all appearances) as the standard for faith.
We all wore little shoes once. Becoming like a little child makes it possible to squeeze back into them again.