by Matt Clingan
I love the line of Jesus where he states, “The law was made for man, not man for the law” (Mark 2:27). It’s kind of a mantra of mine, and while Jesus was speaking about Sabbath, I apply it liberally wherever it works, like a spiritual soap on a body that never feels clean. The rules and guidelines that we have (socially, politically, personally, spiritually) are meant to serve us. The moment they stop serving mankind we can stop following them and let them go.
This is why I love children. They don’t know all the rules. In fact, if you are a parent, you have to teach them. And if you don’t know why you follow the rule, well, that is why God gave you a child, because they will certainly ask you. And sometimes Google doesn’t have the answer. And sometimes there just isn’t an answer. Silence can be the only path away from a difficult question. Silence, quite frankly, is the most difficult answer you can teach your child to accept.
Children not only fail to follow rules, they also speak their minds, and they also seem to take an extremely long time in public bathrooms. This seems like a strange thing to say, but every parent knows this.
“Mama, some people don’t have hands, do they?”
“No. You’re right, honey. They don’t.”
“They can’t wash their hands since they don’t have them.”
“You’re right, honey”
“Those people are lucky.”
This was a conversation between my wife and daughter several years ago in a Taco Bell bathroom. Besides social rules and appropriateness, kids are also awful about following rules around fears. Specifically, destroying hopes and dreams. You see, as adults, we have trained ourselves quite well to find all kinds of reasons why not to do something that we want to do.
This is why Jesus loved children: because they didn’t plague the world with difficulties and complexities and politics and roadblocks and fears that keep you and I from doing what we really want to do. These are fears that keep us from trying; hoping; dreaming.
Children are dangerous because they don’t know to be afraid.
Parents are dangerous because they don’t know how not to be afraid.
The blessing of children is allowing them to move you to places where you know you should go…whether that be God, church, nature, music, drawing, video games, reading, or a big fat vacation. Deep down I believe that we know what would make us happy. We know our source of joy. But we have forgotten it. It is buried underneath leaves of fear, branches of broken hope, sticks of ‘what if’ and logs of just plain laziness. You see, kids don’t have all the excuses we do. They don’t have all the justifications and circular self-depreciated logic to which we cling. They don’t have the fear. So when my child says she wants chickens and I feel tired at the end of the day and exhausted just thinking about all the work this will cause in my life…that we order chickens anyway. Not because I feel obligated or guilty…but because I’ve always wanted them, too.
‘Why don’t we move out to the country?’ was one of those questions. Quite honestly, we had lots of reasons. We had lots of people tell us it was a bad idea and that we would regret it etc. etc. etc. But the more we placated to the idea the more we realized that we’ve been talking about it for 15 years. 15 years. Why don’t we try? At the end of these questions …along this dirt road, they spoke hope and belief into existence that is the shape of a house and a little pond that is full of frogs that sing to us every night.
The challenge we have as parents is to help teach the children to, amidst the noise, listen to that still small voice of God inside.
The challenge children have is to help teach the parents to, amidst the noise, listen to that still small voice of God inside.
This is why it takes a child to enter the gates of heaven. It isn’t because the gates are short. It is because they still believe that dream that you have deep inside is still alive and worth fighting for.
Matt Clingan is the husband to Practicing Families editor and contributor Jill Clingan and is the father of two kids, 15 chickens, 3 ducks, 2 dogs, 1 ferret, and a snail. During the day he does software development and in the evening he spends as much time playing as possible.