A BENJAMIN BUTTON REVOLUTION: BECOMING MORE CHILDLIKE IN CHRIST

By: Francine Hollis

I could not wait until I turned eighteen. As a preteen and a teenager, I knew that when I turned eighteen, I would have “arrived”. There were so many privileges that were bestowed upon one who had become legal in these here United States of America. Mainly, no one could tell me what to do! Ah, Eighteen. I spent my whole life thinking to “win” I have to be assertive, self-sufficient and independent. However, as I studied Matthew 19 recently, I realized there is a lot my childhood self could have taught my grown up self. The childlikeness I once underappreciated seemed to be an especially rich resource for me as a disciple of Christ.

In Matthew 19, Jesus confers a new status on children. Prior to that, the disciples saw those coming up to Jesus as a nuisance and an interruption.  However, Christ tells them the kingdom of heaven belongs to the childlike, “…’Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).’” Jesus takes these somewhat undervalued citizens in Jewish society and gives them a place of honor presenting them as objects of God’s care, affection, and reward – an example to be modeled after.

Being a mom, I noted Jesus’ response to the children around him. As I made my way through my Matthew 19 Bible Study, two questions struck me: What are characteristics of children? Which of these characteristics is God calling me to display in my relationship with Him? There were so many things I could think of to describe children: trusting, humble, loving, truth-telling, full of joy, believe the impossible, imaginative and creative. But in particular, there is something the Lord brought to my mind.

A Lesson Close to Home

Our daughter was ill the week we moved into our new home – a difficult seven days to be sure.  One evening, as I finished organizing the living room at 1am, I heard her moaning in discomfort. I went in and took her temperature and it was 104 degrees. That led us to the emergency room where she was poked, prodded and tested until 4 or 5am. It was there we found out she had the flu.  During that week, anytime she was awake, I was on mama duty. It was a tough go for all of us. 

Fast forward to my Bible study questions and that whole difficult week came flooding back to my mind. I realized in all of my daughter’s discomfort, there was nothing more comforting to her than my presence.  In her pain, her struggle and her hurt, she did not run to food, or television or other people, she just wanted me. When she crawled into my lap, her circumstances had not changed, she was still ill, but she was with me and that was enough. 

She clung to me. Do I cling to God like that?  

Jesus says in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (verses 28-30).” When I am in pain, or I am struggling or hurting and the circumstances do not feel good, the Lord would love if instead of running to food, television, social media, my husband or my friends I would call out for my Abba Father, crawl into His lap and find my comfort there. 

Needless to say, my relationship with God is calling for a Benjamin Button revolution.  Perhaps yours is as well.  In the movie Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt, Benjamin is born as a very old man.  Over the years, while everyone else is growing older, he grows younger until he becomes and infant again.  I too must revert back to a time when I simply relished in being the child and in Him being the Father.  For so long, I believed that God was insisting on my “#adulting” my faith. But He is reminding me, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4).” What an incredible reward! 

Childlike versus Childish

There are some characteristics that ought to stay in childhood to be sure. For example, whining, throwing tantrums, self-centeredness, demanding desires be met immediately, and entitlement, to name a few. These characteristics are not the “childlike” that Jesus refers to, but the “childish” the Apostle Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  Paul’s encouragement is to put those childish ways to rest. Christ expects an increasing maturity in him as evidenced by Paul’s chastisement in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,” Here Paul is encouraging the process of growth and maturity as a disciple of Christ.

The irony of the mature believer, a child of God, is that though he or she sheds childishness they take on childlikeness in many ways. They are humble like a child, trust God as a child trusts a parent, cling to the Father as a child would, find rest for their weary souls in the embrace of the Father, are comforted by His Word as a child would be by the soothing words of a parent. They even enjoy the Lord as a child enjoys the presence of those who love them most. They are excited about the presence of God, just like a child who lights up when daddy comes home.  Some things, no matter how old we get, we should never grow out of.

Jesus said “…’Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).’” There is obviously a lot at stake here.  Refusing to admit that we need Someone who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, a Savior, will cost us our entry into His kingdom. That is a high price to pay for pride. I choose childlike humility instead. So when I am with my daughter and I become aware of how “adult” I am versus how “child” she is, I take a step back. I observe and take notes. I know now that while I am the “grown up”, there is quite a bit she can teach me about maturity in Christ.