The Virtues of a Child

Guest Post by Mrs. Cindy Martin-Foster

I have known Cindy Martin-Foster all my life. She is my cousin, a year older than I. She is an authority on children. She should be as she and her husband, Rev. Paul Martin have 8 children and ____ “grand little ones” as she calls them. They are residents of Jenks Oklahoma where Paul is the pastor of Jenks Baptist Temple.

Children have some special virtues that diminish with age.

I have never read the children’s classic novel Peter Panbut I have seen the movie, Hook. Itis loosely based on the story, and picks up later in Peter Pan’s life as a successful attorney with his wife and two children. 

In this movie rendition, Peter does not remember his childhood in Neverland and memories are not all he left behind.   As I remember the story goes something like this: Peter was an orphan.  He lived in Neverland with more orphans called ‘The Lost Boys’  who wished to never grow up.  Peter Pan was determined not to grow up either, but somehow, he did.  His grown up life became very complicated and this was attributed to the fact that he did ‘grow up’. 

Grown-ups change and not always in good ways. Growing up is inevitable, of course, but growing disenchanted and detached is not.  Peter’s particular way of ‘growing up‘ brought on a serious case of misplaced priorities which, in turn, almost cost him his family. 

That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.

WALT DISNEY, attributed, The Quotable Walt Disney

But he grew up anyway.  He grew up and became a successful businessman which meant for one thing, he got really busy.  In fact, he got so busy that he had no time for anything else of importance.  Not even the most important of all.. his family. 

The ‘adult‘ Peter Pan became too busy, too focused, too mature, too serious, too responsible, too committed, too-everything else characteristic of successful adulthood-praiseworthy attributes without the excess. 

But somehow in pursuit of success, he lost sight of who he was…of the good qualities he possessed as a child…that even though grown, should never have been lost. 

So, what are some of these timeless, precious virtues children possess, but often lose in adulthood?

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. 

Albert Einstein

The Bible notes some exceptional children gifted with wisdom beyond their years. Children chosen by God to teach or lead  powerful adult dignitaries with honesty and innocence in ways only a child could.

There was the child, Samuel, who God chose as His special little messenger to the high priest, Eli, to reveal to him that his days were numbered due to abhorrent acts of his sons.  

Solomon became king of Israel as a child and realizing his deficit of experience, asked God for wisdom when God would have granted him anything he wished. How many adults would do that?  

Or, consider the little servant girl to Naaman.  Naaman was  captain of the host of the king of Syria, who was smitten with leprosy.  She directed him to Elisha the Prophet who told him what to do to be healed.

There was Isaac and Joseph, both very young. By demonstrating faith beyond that of their elders they were greatly used of God. Isaac as a patriarch of God’s Covenant to his chosen people and Joseph, to save his family as well as an entire nation from starvation.  

Daniel, Shadrack, Mishack and Abednigo–Hebrew children and captives of Babylon who politely suggested a better diet when instructed by the king to eat his rich meat.  When it was discovered that their diet was healthier, they established their intelligence, wisdom, and devotion to their God, therefore becoming advisors to the king himself. 

There is much that children can teach us.

Children are illuminated text-books, breviaries of doctrine, living bodies of divinity, open always and inviting their elders to peruse the characters inscribed on the lovely leaves.  AMOS BRONSON ALCOTT, Table Talk

A child is humble, meek, trusting, eager to please, highly motivated, easily led.  He is open-minded and hungry to learn, guiltless and grudge-free.  Adults, being experienced, are prone to skepticism and over-caution but children, lacking that experience are freer to believe and trust.  All the qualities adults consider strengths are often, in actuality, more their weaknesses, at least it seems so in God’s economy.

If God elevates the attributes of a child, then why do grown-ups so often regard children  with what looks more like…contempt?

It seems to me that in churches and families where excessive attention is given to governing children’s behavior, there is little to no attention given to honoring their innocent honesty and nurturing their spirits.  Children are required to be ‘seen and not heard’ and rarely, if ever, credited with wisdom.   

I have been instructed by preachers and other church ‘authorities‘ that when and adult accuses a child of wrong-doing but the child denies it, I should ALWAYS accept the word of the adult over the child.  Well, I guess that might have worked in a time (if there ever was one) when you could actually be confident that adults were more honest than kids.

But not anymore.

In fact, that would be outright dangerous given what we now know of statistics on child abuse and molestation being that 5 children die in America every day due to some form of abuse- http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics and 

http://religiouschildmaltreatment.com/.

and 2 out of 10 girls, 1 out of 10 boys are molested by the time they are 18- http://www.childmolestationprevention.org/pages/prevention_plan.html#focus_on_cause 

Jesus modeled the exact opposite attitude towards children.  When his disciples wanted to dismiss them, he said, “Forbid them not”.  

When the adults treated them as insignificant, Jesus countered, “Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

When the disciples, adults, argued among themselves over who would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus took a little child and said,

“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

When adults abused children, Jesus said, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

If Jesus had such high regard for little children, shouldn’t we? 

Perhaps it is time to correct our focus. 

Perhaps we should take time to remember what it was like to be a child.

Perhaps we should listen to them more and lecture them less.

Perhaps we should consider what we do to provoke their behavior problems before punishing to ‘fix’ them.

Perhaps we should spend more time looking for causes instead of reacting to the effects.

Perhaps we should budget more time nurturing our adult/child relationships than we do trying to convert them to the trivial aspects of our beliefs.  

Perhaps instead of trying to quiet the noise they make, we should relish the sounds of their laughter.

Perhaps instead of grumbling about the messes they make, we should celebrate the energy they have to make them. 

Perhaps we should all, like Peter Pan, revisit that place in our childhoods and rediscover the “happy thoughts” we still need as adults.

Perhaps….

Instead of concentrating all our teachings and efforts towards the proper “training” of children, we should practice being the kind of people we desire them to be.

Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children. 

Khalil Gibran

So, adults, 

Embrace your inner child!  

It’s biblical.  

It’s wise!

Photos courtesy of my grand littles, Cameron and Iris. 

Opening photo of Iris shot by Erin B. Foster Photography.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s