Did you know that out of all animal species, humans have the longest period of our life span in childhood? Interesting.
For other species the time for maturation is fast. Not so much for us. In fact, childhood extends into puberty, the tween years, most of the teen years and ends at 18. At least legally it does. Science confirms that although an 18-year-old may be a legal adult, the human brain is not fully developed until our mid to late twenties (about 27 years for men and 25 for women).
Why do we humans take so long to grow up? Maybe God intended it that way! A prolonged period in childhood may be the way God instills something deep inside of us that we carry throughout lives.
Which brings me to the words of Jesus:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ Truly I tell you, anyone, who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15).
The sobering reality is that as we grow into adulthood, our lives become complicated. Responsibilities need to be met, commitments kept, hard decisions made. We learn fast that our decisions have consequences. We need thoughtful adult reasoning. This too is biblical (see 1 Cor. 13).
So what can we make of Jesus’ words?
First, let us not confuse childlike with childish. God calls us to childlike faith, not to be childish. God doesn’t expect us to escape adult responsibilities (that would be a childish thing for adults to do!). Yet, faith that is childlike pleases God. Think about it, a mature adult faith will have childlike attributes.
Maybe Jesus wants us to remember what it was like when our lives were simpler, when we were completely trusting, when we didn’t take ourselves so seriously, and when we knew our dependence on others. Things we knew well in childhood.
I thank God for the gift of childhood, because it never really leaves us even in our adult years. There is always something about childhood that we carry with us for our entire lives. That would be faith. May our faith always be completely trusting of God, never bogged down with too many needless complexities, willing to enjoy the simple things God gives us in life, and humble enough to accept grace as a gift from God.
Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at?