I was a high school seminary teacher at one point (a job I loved- a story for a different time), and one day when we were studying the scriptures the concept of being like a little child came up. I thought it may be good grounds for discussion, so I asked what it is about little children that we should want to be more like? Why are we asked to be as a little child?
Then I rephrased the question to see if we could at least get them thinking. "Well, we all know little kids... what are they like?" The result was disastrous at first... Don't get me wrong, there was a LOT of participation- but they had all decided this was the perfect time to bash their little siblings and cousins who drive them crazy. "Kids are messy. Kids lie. Kids hit and sometimes do things they aren't supposed to do and ruin things and throw tantrums. My little sister bites sometimes when she doesn't get her way"
At first all I could say was "you're right, they do all those things" and tried to collect myself and ask some better questions to get them thinking. I don't even remember what questions I asked, and to tell you the truth I was caught off guard and the discussion didn't go exactly as wonderfully as I had planned. All those things were true- kids can be brats, they can be a pain in our side, they can willfully do things wrong when they KNOW they are wrong. So why are we asked to be like them?
I think I had gone through my whole life thinking that every time Christ said be like unto a little child I had thought of some sweet, perfect, little angel who never did anything to displease his/her parents. But my experience with my seminary class really made me think- is that really what it meant? If Christ created little children (who go through teething and terrible twos), he knows more readily than I do that there is no child out there who is sweet and angelic and never pusheds boundaries or asks questions 100% of the time. And even though He knew all this about them, He has still asked us to be like them. Fortunately for us, he asked us to be like them in specific ways.
Before I explain anymore, it's helpful to know what the Lord really says:
Mosiah 3:19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he [through the atonement of Christ] becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
But even after reading that I have this vision of perfect angel children! One side of me sees the meek, humble, patient angel children the Lord describes and half of me sees the wild, tantrum throwing children my students described.
It wasn't until Clara that I caught a glimpse of the Savior's love and have been able to reconcile my two conflicting views. Clara is my niece, and I love her as wholly and unconditionally as I have ever loved a child and probably ever will until my own. Clara is feisty, and homegirl KNOWS what she wants. She can throw a dang good tantrum when she feels the need, and I'm not going to say I've never received a bite/attempted bite from those brand new little two year old teeth. Sometimes she wants candy for dinner (or always), and she's almost never satisfied with the word NO when she has her mind set.
But somehow, with this perfect-imperfect, bursting heart of love I have for Clara, I see what the Lord means. Though she throws tantrums, they are short lived. And though she doesn't love the word no, she listens to reason. She may act silly or coy, but the love you receive is unconditional and has nothing to do with how you look, dress, or what you do. She may not be patient with how fast her candy gets from her hand to her mouth, but she's never impatient with the Lord's timing. She never means harm. She may be curious, or not understand fully, but she's never malicious. She doesn't gossip. When she gets mad, it's for lack of full understanding and capacity, and she forgives readily when she's been wronged. She doesn't recognize physical faults in others because they don't matter to her. She's still learning and growing and never thinks she's learned everything or knows everything. She doesn't get to a point where she doesn't need anyone. She wants to learn and grow and progress.
So yeah, tantrums and fits come with the territory of being two.
So yeah, we all throw tantrums. We do things we know are wrong even when we KNOW they're wrong. Sometimes we're messy and we ruin things. But, like a child, do we learn and grow out of those things? Do we listen and learn from our loving Father who is trying desperately to teach us? What if we all lived like a child? What if we always needed our Savior? What if we didn't gossip? What if we saw others through eyes that didn't see worldly imperfection? What if we were each submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]. What if we always were curious, but penitent. And what if we continued always to want to learn and grow and progress.
The good news is for those of us who feel like we just keep throwing tantrums and falling down and making a mess there is hope. There is so much more hope than we give the Lord credit for.
Doctrine & Covenants 78
17 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
18 And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of goodcheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
19 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
I feel like a child most of the time. Sometimes I feel like I just don't know what I'm doing or that I'm making a mess or messing up without meaning to. But there's hope for me like there's hope for you. Even if I mess up, if I strive to be what he asks me to be, if I recognize my need for him and stop relying on myself and become meek and submissive and loving.... He will lead me along. He will guide me and help me understand all that I cannot yet understood. He wants to give me (and you) all He has.
And if I just accept His help with thankfulness, I can be made glorious.
Thanks Clara girl, for teaching me how I should be.
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