Lorraine Murray

Children hold the key to the kingdom of heaven

“Eat one more bite and then we’ll go to the toy store,” the mom promised.

I was having lunch with my cousin, Rachel, and her children, Liam, 4, and Chandler, 3, at a restaurant near the hotel where the family was staying.

They had escaped Dorian during a mandatory evacuation of St. Marys, Georgia, and were in town for a few days. And since Rachel’s allergic to cats, staying at my house wasn’t an option, since my roommate is a feline named Fuzzy.

The children had acted a bit shy around me earlier, so when Rachel went to the restroom, leaving me alone with them, I hoped there wouldn’t be a meltdown.

To fend it off, I asked Liam, who was wearing an oversized, red Mario hat, about “Toy Story 4,” which he’d recently seen with his dad.

The child happily launched into a detailed review of his favorite parts of the movie, which was still ongoing when his mom returned. But his meal still sat there, waiting for “one more bite.”

As the lunch progressed, there were more mentions of the fun-filled excursion, which would take place only if the chicken was eaten. The very prospect of an adventure being denied him brought tears to Liam’s eyes and heated protests — until finally a deal was struck.

He ate the parts of the chicken he really liked — the crispy skin — and satisfied the “one more bite” stipulation to his mom’s satisfaction. Soon we entered the promised land, where Liam provided his sister with a stuffed animal for diversion and then zoomed around the store under Rachel’s watchful eyes.

Children are fascinating because their emotions are so close to the surface. One moment they’re laughing, and then the tide turns, and they’re in tears.

Christ’s words can be perplexing: “Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Does this mean we’re supposed to have meltdowns when our desires are thwarted? Wear big hats in the mall?

That would make us childish, an annoying trait in adults, but being childlike is quite different. Christ was praising the positive traits children exhibit, especially trusting that their parents will care for every need, big and small.

A little girl needn’t fear walking through a busy parking lot, as long as her tiny hand rests in a larger one. A boy can march confidently into a new store because Mom is nearby, watching him.

Adults often struggle to see God as a loving father, watching over us. As French author Jacques Philippe writes, “We all have fears, worries, doubts and suspicions.”

We read about the struggle to trust God in the book of Genesis, when God forbids Adam and Eve to eat from one particular tree. Tempted by the devil, they become suspicious of God, thinking he has ulterior motives. Soon they lose their childlike innocence.

We’ve all suffered, we’ve been disappointed, we’ve had our hearts broken. Maybe we’ve shaken our fists at God in anger and frustration.

Trusting him means realizing our stories aren’t over yet. Trusting means accepting we don’t fully understand his plan, because in this life we see “through a glass darkly.” It means following rules that are difficult, while knowing he has our best interests at heart.

We can learn from children who deeply trust their parents to meet their needs. They know they’ll be given their daily bread, just like the Lord’s Prayer mentions.

Children know their parents will grasp their hands, steer them safely through dangerous places and deliver them from evil. And someday, when they’re adults, they’ll look back and realize how close they truly were to the kingdom of heaven.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com