At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He 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.
Have you ever watched little children with their favorite grandparent? They beg to be picked up into their loved one’s lap. Sometimes it is so that they can nestle again that person’s chest and enjoy his warmth and love. Other times it is to explore the world from a new vantage point. And then there are the special times when it is to discover who this loved one is. They might peek into their grandfather’s ears, examine his teeth, and check to see if anything is living his scruffy beard. They might try to stick their fingers into his mouth so that he will pretend to be a monster who just might bite them off. Everyone squeals with laughter in this game of discovery.
I loved to hang out with my grandmother. Each time I visited she would invite me to sit on the couch next to her, and we would hold hands while she told me stories from her childhood. As I listened I would examine back of her left hand. One of her knuckles had failed to grow like the other ones. I would rub it, enjoying its unique feel and look. Over and over again I would ask her to tell me the story of how she injured it. I knew she loved re-telling this familiar story because it gave her an opportunity to share herself with me. It provided a way for me to draw close to her and to know her better.
Does God share a similar desire with us? Does he want to reveal himself? I am reminded of Moses asking to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18). Was Moses wanting to know more about God? The Lord had just finished telling Moses that he (God) knew Moses by name and would go with him and the other Israelites as they left the familiar land of Egypt. God knew Moses, now Moses wanted to know more about God. Did it delight God to be asked to share this aspect of himself? Did he emotionally light up like my grandmother did every time I requested her to tell me about her strange knuckle?
Other examples come to my mind, such as when Moses asked God his name as Moses stood by the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). How about when Isaiah saw the throne room of God? The vision and prophecy so overwhelmed him that he asked how long the judgment would last (Isaiah 6:11). Or, when Thomas wanted to verify the person the other disciples had seen was indeed Jesus. He said he needed to put his fingers into Christ’s wounds to believe (John 20:24–28). All these men demonstrated a comfortable familiarity with God that allowed them to be bold in their desire to know him better.
Were they expressing the same level of ease that little children have their grandparents? It seems so to me. I suspect God’s encouragement to discover him as our “Abba Father” is a two-way street. Not only does he want us to rely on him, like little children, for all our needs, but he also wants us to discover and know him, just like young children are unabashedly familiar with their grandparents.