When I was a child, I thought I was about as good as I could be. Now that I’m older, I’ve had experience of children much better than myself.
The virtue of a child
I have been observing children all my life, from my own childhood to those of my niblings (nephews and nieces). What is the virtue of a child? A child’s virtue is what makes a child really happy.
Receptive: A child loves nothing more than to be loved. Children crave attention. They want to be held and kissed, and they are completely dependent. They are “bad” when they refuse love, screaming, stamping their feet, throwing tantrums. It’s less pleasant to hold them when they struggle, demanding that you turn the way they want or going up and down and up and down. Good children receive care in whatever way their loving parents can provide. They receive it and return love for love.
Simple: A baby girl I met recently rejoices at nothing more than being noticed. When her eyes meet yours, her limbs bounce, as if she’s leaping. The prettiest smile you’ve ever seen lights her eyes and mouth. The simplest thing you could do–looking at her–becomes a great mutual delight.
Trusting: Parents love their children when they’re asleep. Even demons could turn to angels if they could just close their eyes and rest. Sleeping children are the most trusting, and that beauty awakes in us a deep admiration. Why can’t they be like that all the time?
Become like little children
Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 18:3-4
How can we imitate the virtues of children in our own lives? How can we act as true and good children to God our Father?
Receptive: We, too, can be receptive. We can learn to accept God’s love in whatever way he chooses to give it to us. When He gives us something, we must remember that He gave it to us because of His love, and we must thank Him. And when He chooses not to give us something, we should ponder His choice. It is surely for our good.
Simple: Just as parents look to their children in love, so God looks to us. How wonderful if we can respond to His loving look with simple delight! What else do we need but to know that He delights in our delight?
Trusting: We can show our trust, too. The best way is to not worry. We should strive to keep the peace of sleep even when awake. Because our God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. There is no room in Him for evil or mistakes. And so we rest in Him.
The reaction of the parent
I once observed a mother with her children. She was speaking with adults while her children were at a play date. One-by-one, the children came to her with complaints about each other and worries that she wasn’t being fair.
As they talked, this mother looked at them. She wasn’t even listening. Her eyes grew large, her mouth opened in a wondering smile, and she breathed deeply. She was drinking them in, even these naughty children.
They went away frustrated, but that experience of their mother’s peace will teach them something. She was not disturbed by these problems of their own making. The children were little, and little ones make little problems. If only we could keep our problems little!
If this mother could love her naughty children, how much more will God react when we receive His love simply and trust in Him? Will He not be filled with more delight than a father who looks at his good children? Will He not drink us in as a mother drinks in her children’s very existence?
That is the goal of good children.