He (Jesus) called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-3 NIV

One summer day when I treated Graham and his little brother to a day at Water Country in Williamsburg, Virginia, Wes got lost.  This experience scarred him for about four years. I had put Graham in charge of his younger brother when they went into the men’s locker room to change.

Seeing Graham coming out alone, I said, “Where’s Wes?” He turned around puzzled then responded, “I thought he was following me.” I quickly sent Graham back. I wasn’t prepared for what he discovered.  This changing facility had TWO entry points.  We figured that Wesleigh must have gone out the other door, which meant that Graham didn’t pay much attention to his brother like I had instructed. Being only five years old, I often placed young Wes under the supposed ‘watchful eye’ of Graham who was ten.

With this news that Wes was nowhere to be found, I panicked, prayed and ran around shouting his name. Even with a security guard helping me it took about fifteen minutes before I spotted my youngest.  He was walking toward me as though coming from the ticket takers. “Wes!!!! Where have you been?” 

This little kid had gone out to the parking lot thinking we had left him alone. I felt horrified just imagining him among the hundreds of cars.

Hugging him tightly, I rejoiced in God’s goodness.  What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional impact this event had on Wes.  He had experienced it as trauma.  For the next few years, each time I dropped him off at school in the morning, he would seek hearty assurance that I would indeed return.  Now a nervous child and fearful of being abandoned, he would press me for an exact time I’d swing by to pick him up.  The waterpark experience had transformed him into a very clingy child.

The other day, pondering Jesus’ words about being as a LITTLE child, I thought of that long-ago experience.  I imagined a three-year old clinging to his daddy’s leg, not wanting to let him leave.  Don’t little ones feel safe when they are in the presence of their parents?  They don’t want to let them out of their sight.

Jesus is teaching us to be like the toddler who needs that constant reassurance. Physical nearness represents safety.

Of course, we want our children to grow up and develop independence.  But what if Jesus doesn’t mean for us to outgrow our need to be that kind of close to him? What if he prefers that we remain children who crave his constant company?

May we retain the best of being a child and stay glued to our savior and older brother.