Childlike wonder can be a bother, or a direct line to the heart of God. Read on as Jennifer Grant helps connect us to this often-overlooked element in our everyday.
By Jennifer Grant
"I wonder," a little girl at my church said to her mom recently, "If teeth had families and hometowns. I mean, before they lived in my mouth."
She's in kindergarten, after all, and, well, it's her job to wonder about things like that.
Wondering preoccupies young children. Many of us start asking "Why?" by the time we're about two or three years old. One study I read reported that girls aged four are the most curious; they ask almost 400 questions a day. (It's no wonder parents feel so ragged by bedtime, when they've been asked a question nearly every two waking minutes with their kids.)
Some of my favorite questions my own children posed when they were little, include:
"Where does the moon go during the day?"
"Do dolphins close their eyes to sleep?"
"If heat rises, why are mountaintops snowy?"
That last was a question my then first-grade son asked his teacher. She sent a note home in his backpack, requesting that we do some research on our own that night. (We learned, by the way, that it has to do with air pressure and the Earth's radiant heat, but if you'd like more detail, Google it!)
This week, I happened again on that strange passage in Matthew in which Jesus thanks God for obscuring the vision of the "wise and learned" and instead revealing spiritual things to little children. (Matthew 11:25) And the specific "thing" God revealed to children, rather than adults, was ... Jesus himself.
Of course, there are many other places in Scripture where Jesus talks about children and their exceptional ability to understand spiritual things. A bit later in Matthew (18:2-6), Jesus draws a child near to himself and then tells the adults who are gathered around that unless they change and become "like little children," they won't enter heaven. He even calls children the "greatest in the kingdom" and goes so far as to say that anyone who welcomes a child in his name welcomes Christ himself. (He follows all these statements, as you might know, with a grim warning: anyone who causes a child to stumble would be better off drowning in the bottom of the sea.)
For the past few years, in my professional life, I've focused on writing for children. I take this work seriously - not only because I'm passionate about children's literature - but because it feels a privilege to feed a child's sense of spiritual wonder. Jesus' mysterious words about children, with their strange mix of wisdom and warning, spur me on.
I'm not inspired to write books that explain God to kids or preach at them. (They get enough of that sort of thing already, don't you think?) Rather, I'm inspired to wonder, with them, about the nature of God. Why must we listen to them and become like them to know God? Do they, more than jaded grownups, reflect God's image in their openness and curiosity? Their enthusiasm? Their lack of pretense? What can we learn from the way children see the world about how God sees it?
Clearly, not all of us write books for children. Not all of us are parents or grandparents. But all of us have some contact with kids, whether in our neighborhoods, extended families, places of worship, or just while we're standing in line at the grocery store.
Join me, whenever you connect with kids, in bending down and listening to their open-ended, open-hearted questions about the world. Join them in their daydreamy wonder about this world and its Creator. Let their wonder become your own.
Jennifer Grant is the author of six books for adults, including Wholehearted Living and Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter. Her first picture book, Maybe God Is Like That Too, won awards for excellence in children's literature. A second in the series, Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too, has just released. Find her online at jennifergrant.com.