When kids laugh, it flows like creek water after a spring thaw. I worry that my grown-up life is less like flowing water and more like ice freezing over the top of a pond.
Jesus said that heaven belongs to the childlike. Is this because they can still be astonished by the world around them?
Maybe when Jesus admonished his followers to be like little children, he wanted us to see the world through their eyes. Kids are curious and impetuous. They point out people, such as the homeless, that adults would rather ignore. They have a sense of wonder about tiny things, like ants and fireflies. They ask, “Why?” And “Why not?” They’re small, so they don’t look down on others judgmentally. Instead they look up, often in awe.
When life has become perfunctory, we stop paying close attention to the good and bad. I become blind to the gorgeous virtuosity of this world’s maker. And I turn my head from the ugliness of suffering.
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Where I live, suburbia is edged by prairie on one side and city on the other. My community consists of freshly painted houses with overflowing closets and pantries. Shiny new churches are stationed here like so many helpful signposts.
How could anyone lose sight of God in a place like this? Perhaps because it’s easier to enjoy a church’s fabulous multimedia presentation and worship band than to notice the stranger sitting next to me.
Small children in church often turn around and peek at the people behind them. Sometimes they even make funny faces at them. I don’t need to make faces at anyone, but I ought to engage more with that stranger beside me. Beneath the polite surface, he or she could be feeling tired, lonely, or sad. God might have placed me here to connect, while all I can think about is what to have for lunch.
We adults inflict an oblique kind of violence on each other. A willful blindness toward another’s humanity can be as hurtful as any weapon. We avert our gaze from imperfection. Our eyes roll in contempt. Our words cut, and our silence too. Our work and family are held up as shields — we’re too busy to be concerned about anything or anyone else.
Living in the land of spiritual entertainment and entitlement, how can I focus on helping the poor, orphaned, and imprisoned? It’s easy to put a fish symbol on the back of my vehicle, like any good fan of Team Christian. It’s not so easy to actually make loving eye contact with a suffering person.
I must start with humility. I’m an amateur at faith, a middling follower of God. I don’t know exactly what faith is or should be, but like the poet Mary Oliver, I will try to pay attention, to kneel down and be amazed. I will try to see with the eyes of a child, and by extension, God’s eyes.
Jennifer Wilson is one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers. To respond, email firstname.lastname@example.org.