Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Becoming Like Children
The concept of becoming like a child has been constellating in my mind in the last couple of weeks. I can’t say I thought of the bible passage until a few days ago when I realized there had been a number of examples of this that were coming together in my life. The bible passage that finally broke through into my consciousness was Matthew 18: 3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.This started with reading Maggie’s Memories, a book of letters by Margaret Duncan Borden to her grandchildren. The letters were compiled by Eldon Hay who is a cousin (although I haven’t quite figured out the actual relationship — it’s something like a second cousin once removed. Eldon and his wife Ann attended our open house (open cottage) a few weeks ago and gave us a copy of the book as a cottage warming present. The book is subtitled “A Covententer Childhood in 19th Century Botsford Parish, New Brunswick. The letters are delightful recollections of a child’s life in a very different age. As Eldon notes in the introduction, “Written as a series of vignettes ranging in time from earliest memories to the first stirrings of womanhood, the letters conjure up a remarkably vivid picture of an extraordinarily happy childhood in rural New Brunswick during the 1860’s, 7o’s and early 80’s”.
The letters capture vividly and marvellously the ethos of a completely different time and place that existed in Canada at the beginning of Confederation. Beyond the enjoyment of reading the letters I was surprized by the association which came to my mind which was of Alice in Wonderland/through the Looking Glass. This puzzled me at first but on reflection I believe because it was written from the perspective of a young girl but also and possible more significantly because both works capture something of the efforts of a child to navigate through a somewhat strange and new landscape. Undoubtedly there were no Mad Hatters or Cheshire Cats or in Maggie’s Memories but there seemed to be a few characters that could appear that way to a child’s eyes.The next adventure in the worldview of a child was watching a video of To Kill a Mockingbird a few nights ago. We only have a small portable TV and a VCR player (no DVDs in our cottage life) so we are restricted to movies we can get on VHS. This work also caught the world view of a young girl, Scout. There were monster who turned out to be friendly giants i.e. Boo Radley and evil demons who were defeated in the end i.e. Bob Ewell, the evil man who was defeated by the friendly giant who rescued the young prince, Jem.
All these brought back memories of my childhood and how the world could be a very scary place at times. It was a world that, if not full of monsters, contained monsters under the bed and in other dark places and giants who I was not sure were friendly or unfriendly. I spent a long time trying to figure out how the world actually worked and what my place was in it. The reality is that I am still trying to figure those things out. So what is it that Jesus means when he tells us to become like children — or like a little child? The next verse does give us a clue, 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I find it is a real challenge to be truly humble which requires me to put my ego in the service of the Self as Carl Jung would say or in theological terms — to put the ego in the service of God. The best perspective of humility that I know is by Sister Jane, an Anglican Nun. She says that to be humble is to see clearly. Perhaps that is seeing the world through a child’s eyes with no assumptions about being in control. Blessings.