Being the Child

I am a poet. I keep a notebook, several notebooks, going all the time with all manner of observations. This afternoon I was flipping through my Purse Notebook. So thin it is almost a pamphlet with just a light cardboard cover, this is the notebook I carry with me—and it shows. The edges are bent, the creases hold lint from the bottom of my purse. On the second page of this notebook I found these thoughts I had written on Mark 10:13-15 where Jesus tells me that to enter The Kingdom, I must come as a child:

Think about how an adult walks—with clarity of purpose, evenly towards a goal. How does a child walk? A child moves from one delight to another, allowing himself to wonder, allowing himself to notice. To notice tiny things, interesting smells, various textures and how good it feels to skip or hop or twirl or run.

This reminded me of something in my Main Notebook. This is the notebook I use for wrestling with ideas and working through sounds and pace. In February I wrote:

Being the Child—what does a child do? A child asks questions, and the questions of a child so often begin with—why? Why? It isn’t about asking the “right” questions but about coming as a child does, with a lot of questions. Why do children ask so many questions? Is it just to keep the dialogue going? Just to interact with the Father? That’s part of what it was for me. My father loved airplanes, so I leaned in and listened, asked questions, just to extend the time we had together, trying to connect.

I’ve been pondering these things this year. What does it mean to Be the Child? I don’t have answers, but living with the question has made this year lighter. We all have questions, hard questions, and God does not tell us that our questions are not important. In fact, He tells us quite the opposite, “Ask the questions! Bring them to Me! I want to hear what is in your heart! No question is off limits. Come! Come to Me Little One. I am bigger than all your questions, and I don’t find any of your heart questions scary. I am here. Climb into My lap, and ask Me.”

So how do we ask “rightly?” I don’t think this is about the form of the questions at all. I think this is about emphasis. Children often ask questions, and as we adults try to find a perfect answer to satisfy them, the children wander off to the Next Thing. They are often truly satisfied with a response that connects rather than accurately answers. An acceptable response to, “why is the bug doing that?” can be, “that is so interesting! Let's watch it for awhile.” The child has shared an experience and that is often enough. This response does not negate the question. It removes the urgency, the emphasis on the question and places the emphasis on the relationship. If the question continues to linger in the heart of the child, it will be asked again. At this point, parent and child will discover or uncover answers together.

This is an aspect of contemplative prayer: we come to our Lord and wonder. We ask why. But instead of demanding an immediate answer, we lean into His Presence. Living the questions does not negate the questions but it changes our focus so that we can live in companionship with The Comforter. It takes our eyes off of ourselves so that we can look into His Face.