With A Child’s Heart
A museum opens for renowned critics to offer their expertise on several exhibits. Each generally supports the views of the other until they come to the last piece…a lonely, battered step ladder with a half-eaten sandwich on the middle rung. They carefully consider the anonymous creator’s message.
“Futility,” one decides. “The food represents the work of man which is never enough to attain the height of success.” “No,” replies another, “See the ladder. Though old and worn, it still stands. This is Triumph.” “You’re both blind,” claims a third. “Notice the detail of the sandwich, so perfectly prepared and only a portion consumed. This is Hope for what is yet to come.” “All wrong,” argued the last. “The fact the sandwich is half-eaten speaks of disappointment and despair.”
As the critics debate what is before them, a man walks over. “Sorry about that,” he apologizes. “I wondered where I’d left this.” The janitor retrieves his sandwich, picks up the ladder, and finishes his lunch as he strolls away.
We often seek a deep, hidden meaning…
The Gospel of Luke describes John the Baptist. 1 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 2
Recently I was drawn to the phrase…turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. Seemed backwards. Shouldn’t it be, turn the hearts of the children to their fathers? That made more sense to me. My own children have often ignored my righteous wisdom. So I decided to study this a bit.
The word for turn means return to and fathers is better interpreted parents, or more fully, ancestors. Also, the original text doesn’t have “the” fathers or “their” children. So on a broader level, this was directed to all adults…the entire living collection of ancestors…and was about children generally. If you who have no children think it doesn’t apply to you, think again. But what does it all mean now?
Commentaries are often opinions seeking some deep, hidden meaning behind a passage. Here, one decides it’s to turn the hearts of Jews to the Gentiles; another replies it’s to restore peace among parents and their children who choose a different religious path. A third claims it’s about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whose hearts turned away from the Jews for their unbelief and disobedience; a fourth argues it’s to restore parental godliness whose decay led to religious and social corruption.
When the truth is right before our eyes.
Perhaps it’s simpler than that. A little child trusts and expresses joy in the faithful parent. When afraid or hurt, the child follows after and clings to the protecting parent. When in need, the child cries out, knowing the vigilant parent will hear. And when that parent approaches, the child raises its arms to be lifted up and held close, because more than anything, it wants to be near the loving parent.
Maybe what Gabriel meant was that John would turn the hearts of adults, then and now, to how we were, or should have been, as small children, moving us to that same relationship with our Heavenly Father. But how would he do that? John came with one purpose…to tell everyone of the light that was coming into the world. We have nothing from him about children, but we certainly do from Jesus.
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children…Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. 3
For this season and always, may our hearts return to that of a little child, may everyone know us as children of God, and may we never forget that Jesus is the reason.
Chuck Graham is Founder and Executive Director of Ciloa, an international ministry devoted to sharing God’s encouragement and teaching others how to “encourage one another as long as it is called Today!” He is also an author, speaker, teacher, and encourager. Chuck and his wife, Beverly, live in Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA. You can learn more about Chuck and Ciloa at www.Ciloa.org.
Footnotes: The original version of this Note of Encouragement, May God bless you this day…with a child’s heart,was published December 6, 2010. (1) These words were spoken by the angel Gabriel. (2) Read Luke 1:5-19. (3) Read Luke 10:21;18:16-17.
Pictures: Banner: Jesus Loves The Little Children, image from The Chosen, Out of Order Studios, VidAngel Studios, Season 1, Episode 3, 2019. (1) Critics and Jurors, painting by Onelio Marrero. (2) I Am A Child Of God, painting by Howard Lyon, FineArtAmerica.com. (3) Rohingy Children, photo by John Warren, World Vision, 2019.