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Let the Children Come to Me

As with most of my more interesting stories, this one begins in the subway. I was on my way back from school (and 5 awesome hours of brain imaging in a darkened room) and I had just thrown myself into the closing doors of a subway car. I normally hate how people do this. However, the fact that I did this today will make me less judgmental next time someone holds up the subway car by doing this. I end up standing by a gentleman  sitting between two adorable boys in yarmulkes. He's joking back and forth with them about how smart they are, threatening to get up in front of the whole train to tell everyone how proud he was to have two boys that are so smart. Meanwhile, they have the embarrassed look on their faces (the one you had whenever your parents did something similarly embarrassing to you) and they are tugging on his sleeves, telling him not to do it. I chuckle. Next thing I know, the dad asks me if I think his kids are smart and I say "I think they're very smart...and I'm a teacher so I know a lot of kids." Next thing I know, I am teaching these kids genetics on the train. The kids turn out to be the most adorable (and extremely intelligent) young men.

At one point, one of the boys says something similar to "Well, next time you come over our dad's place..."
To which I replied, "Oh, I don't think so. Technically, I am still a stranger and you got to be careful with strangers...even me."
Why shouldn't you ever trust me? 
Just look at how I behave in public....

I know that's a pretty strange response to give a child. However, in this day and age (especially for children), you can't be too trusting. The dad did agree with me. As he pointed out...especially after the other son had told me their address...the kids were very sweet and trusting. My top priority when it comes to kids (students, relatives, strangers, etc) is their protection and safety. If there's a kid that gets lost, I will stand by them and console them until their parents are found...preventing any would-be abductors/evildoers from hurting this kid.. I never leave these children ...because you never know what can happen in this day and age. In a similar way, I do what I can to make sure these kids know to protect I did with the boys today. As sad as it sounds, I really hope they think twice before being so talkative with a stranger...even if that stranger appears as nice and trustworthy as I must have appeared to these kids.

I love children, I always have. They're great to be around. They're a lot more optimistic than adults. Their conversations are certainly a lot more imaginative, interesting and, believe it or not...extremely intelligent for the most part. They possess a lot of the creative thinking that tends to disappear with age (except in a few nutty people like me). They are full of  love, trust, energy, and innocence that seems to be destroyed little by little with each misfortune that life brings. Kids simply don't see the world in the same way as all the old, disillusion, and bitter adults. This is due, in part, to their innocence...

Warning children not to trust strangers ultimately leads to some suspicion about adults...and does lead to some loss of innocence as they become more wary of the world around them. However, children still remain (for the  most part) far more innocent than us when it comes to so many things.
"And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
When Christ tells us we have to be like children to enter the kingdom of God, he know what we're up against. He knows that a third of the angels fell from grace when the devil rebelled against God. He knows that we are weaker than these fallen angels in so many respects. We are mortal, we have never stood before God, and we are plagued by sin from the moment of our birth. How the heck do we stand a chance of getting to heaven if only two thirds of all the angels are till there. How can we possibly be better than the third that fell? How can we possibly achieve something that these other guys lost? I mean...they were angels at one point! We're nowhere near angel how can we ever survive?

Fortunately, Christ also knew what human nature was like when he told us to be like children.

We don't start off bad people. In fact, when we're born...we don't even know how to sin. We're not inherently evil. I mean, yes, there's original sin. However, there is also redemption as well as innocence. Children don't start off wanting to become mass murderers. They aren't born wanting to curse off everyone and their grandma. They don't grow up wanting to steal, cheat, allow people to starve, etc.  Unfortunately, we learn imperfect behavior and tendencies from parents and the environment as we grow up. As we grow older, we become more exposed to all sorts of new sins. As a result, our sins get graver and our souls less child-like as our innocence is lost. One of the gravest effects of this is that we start losing our trust in God.

Yet, as we grow older, we are better able to grasp things a lot there is some hope.
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner: but then face to face. Now I know in part: but then I shall know even as I am known. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity."
 As we grow older, our ability to distinguish right from wrong improves. Therefore, choosing right over wrong becomes that much more beautiful in God's eyes....and more meaningful in our own lives. In a similar way, knowing and understanding evil makes sin more damaging to us when we choose evil over good. Repeatedly doing evil with full knowledge of it....even worse. Learning and understanding the 10 commandments before obeying them certainly means a lot more than just obeying them for the sake of obeying them. With knowledge comes more understanding about the "why" behind all of God's laws and Christ's teachings. Knowing the "why" also show us how much sin truly damages our relationship with Christ and how our sin hurts Christ....especially if we understand why Christ was born and why he was crucified.

As we age and understand more thoroughly, our decision of right over wrong becomes all the more significant and meaningful in God's eyes. Think about it. Imagine that eating Taco Bell is the gravest sin you can commit (terrible example...but I can't think of a better one). If you've never had Taco Bell, you can easily abstain from eating Taco Bell. However, imagine that you once had Taco Bell as a rebellious teenager (because these seem to be the best years for being foolish). You repented soon afterward, ran to a confession booth, and were absolved of this sin. After reconciliation, you find yourself thinking about Taco Bell far too often. You thought Taco Bell was delicious and you find yourself craving it more and more as each day goes by. Yet, you continue to abstain from it. I don't know about you, but abstaining from something you've once loved and enjoyed is far harder than abstaining from something you've never experienced. Therefore, I think the sacrifice must mean a lot more.

When Christ tells us to be like children to enter his kingdom, he doesn't tell us to trust the entire world. We are told to trust God. We are told to trust God and have faith in him even after we stumble.When we are told to be like children, we are not told to keep ourselves in a safe, cushioned bubble until the day we die. God knows we'll make mistakes, but he wants us to try our best anyway. We're prone to sin at some point or another...but God knows our potential...and it is great. Yes, children tend to be more innocent than adults and this may help them attain heaven a lot easier than us crotchety, old geezers. However, heaven is still possible for us. We have a harder time trusting in God because we've become disillusioned by so many things. There's people who simply stop believing because they can't fathom "how any loving god could ever let this happen" or because they simply let their faith fade over time. However, there are still so many people who never cease to believe in God. There's even people who still put so much of their trust in God as well. This is truly a beautiful thing...especially if these people have been through a lot of terrible things over the years.

We may never possess the strong faith we've had as children ever again. However, what faith we have remaining is so much stronger in other respects since it has weathered through periods of questioning, the periods of doubt, and the periods of disillusionment. As our faith endures more and more dark times and troubles, we hold onto it a lot tighter. The more we understand over time, the more precious our faith becomes. With this said,  I am sure God gives Brownie points to all sorts of former prodigal sons and daughters who hold onto their faith....even if they can't bring themselves to trust God as easily as they used to when they were children.

Pax Vobiscum

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