At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4
One of my friends and co-workers at the university has a daughter with Down Syndrome. The little girl is beautiful, sweet-natured, and a total campus favorite. She’s pretty great.
I have thought for many years about the singular clarity people like her possess and have long-maintained that they have much to say, but only the wisest can understand them. It is as if they are locked in a state of perpetual childhood, where their humility and greatness continue undiminished as they get older.
I ran across some insight from Thomas à Kempis recently that illuminated the question for me. “The man to whom all things taste as they be, not as they are said or thought to be, he is very wise and taught more by God than by men.” The Imitation of Christ.
Perhaps that is part of what makes people like my friend’s daughter so wise. Along with her other limitations, she has a limited capacity for self-deception. She does not see bad things, even in herself, and imagine them to be good. She accepts truth as she finds it. She knows and accepts her dependence on others.
How much of what holds us back in our faith is our own self-rationalization and self-aggrandizement. We readily accept the deceptions that allow us to be comfortable with our sin. Not so children. They see, hear, and taste the world as it is. We can do the same but it will require the humility of Brielle. Let her be your teacher this year, my friends. As we join her in her humility, we may join her in her greatness.