Published by Michael Bigg on Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:31

Yesterday (4th October) the church remembered St Francis of Assisi. The collect (special prayer) in his honour begins: "O God, you ever delight to reveal yourself
to the childlike and lowly of heart". Jesus says in Matthew 18: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven". The meaning of this has been on my mind for some time and St Francis' collect yesterday has finally nudged me to write something down.

Jesus follows his words in Matthew 18 with the comment that it is the lowliness of children that makes them first in line for the kingdom of heaven. However, I wonder if there's more than that. What is it that characterises children in a way that does not characterise adults?

In my dealings with children, as a teacher and as a parent, one thing I'd note is that children are often characterised by lives whose boundaries are growing. Part of childhood is the dawning realisation that there's more to the world than the immediate family, or street, or village, or school, or country. Boundaries and horizons are constantly growing. It's the same with learning - children are constantly learning new things, discovering more. Children are often willing to ask for help, admit they were wrong and move on into growth. The trajectory of a child's experience of life is usually towards growth and further life. (This is why I think we find it so tragic when children "grow up too soon" or become pessimistic).

What of adults? So often our ideas become fixed, our horizons are firmed up, we find it difficult to learn, we certainly find it hard to admit fault. Our vision of God becomes limited too; instead of a God who is becoming larger and more gracious we put God into a box that fits our experience.

It's hard to grow when you feel grown up. We stop growing physically. It's easy to stop growing spiritually. My encouragement to all us is that, by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit can lead us into new life. Our vision of God can still grow. We can grow in compassion, humility and love. And as we do we can look forward to the time at the other side of death's curtain in which our current experience of death and decay will give way to an existence characterised by evermore growing into life upon life. Glory into glory! Why not pray for growth in your own life and the lives of others today?

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