“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The little children metaphor

There are several places in biblical gospels where Jesus tells his followers to somehow resemble little children. In Luke 18:16 he says to let the little children come to him because the kingdom belongs to such as these. He also says we must receive the kingdom like a little child. In Matthew 11:25, he praises God because he has hidden things from the wise and revealed them to little children. In Matthew 18:3, he says if you humble yourself like a child you will be the greatest in the kingdom.

So. . .
we should receive the kingdom like little children
hidden things are revealed to little children
we should humble ourselves like little children
the kingdom belongs to little children

In considering Jesus' audience, poor, malnutritioned, largely uneducated, third worlders, the level of their children would be arguably even lower than the adults. This audience strikes me as not being that far afield from cognitively disabled adults of today. Jesus was no doubt speaking figuratively when telling his followers to be like little children.

Yet in my interactions with mentally retarded adults, little children, in many ways, cognitively, it gives me pause. I consider the joyful manner in which they receive gifts. I ponder the things which they understand about the Lord and about their faith and wonder about the things which might be clear to them yet confuse me (ostensibly an educated person with wisdom of the world). I reflect on the humility they must consistently engendor to receive the kinds of services and supports they receive. I disagree with the following statement, however it makes a point, in that few people would really say they "need" their disabled friend. If I need you, then you can make demands on me and I must capitulate to you in order to gain what I need you to provide, or I need to receive from you. In over 25 years, I can't remember a time when a mentally retarded person refused to help me when I asked for assistance. But to be in constant need from others forces humility on you, and in some ways causes you to be humble like little children. Ultimately the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Belongs to those who receive it like a little child, are humble like a little child, and receive the revelations that confound the wise, like a little child.

There might be a principle here, that persons with average to above average cognitive abilities can be deluded into thinking that they are self sufficient. This level of conceited arrogance which we all have to some extent, interferes with many aspects of our spiritual growth. That is, I won't believe unless I understand something, I don't want to humble myself and serve others, I really desire that they serve me, I must receive my faith along with other gifts from God with humility. I struggle in all these areas, particularly in receiving my faith as a gift. As Watchman Nee says, I look in the wrong direction, looking at myself as the source of my knowledge, my success, my faith, my acceptability and reason for belonging.

I find people with cognitive disabilities don't face that same problem as much. For example, they are used to not understanding things, to having to be humble to receive help. If you tell them that God has given you a gift, they will respond in humility, not second guessing what He wants in return or if he even is. They set an example for me.

To my thinking they often respond as a little child would.


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