Unlearning to Learn

Today India celebrates Children’s day, a day that commemorates the birth anniversary of the First Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.  As children, it was a day we eagerly looked forward to going to school, a day when we could showcase our talents on stage, singing or dancing, and however terrible we were in either or both, the students and teachers always cheered.

Reminiscing about my childhood, I couldn’t help but remember a chance encounter I had some time ago.  We went shopping, one day, my daughter and I.  As we separated our ways looking through attire that hung attractively and delicately on the clothes hangers, a pretty 5-year-old girl popped out of nowhere in front of me.  Wearing a beautiful dress and sporting a short black fringe, she coyly smiled at me and asked me in a charming voice, “Aunty, did you see my sister?”

She asked me in a charming voice, “Aunty, did you see my sister?”

Surprised and taken aback by her sweetness and that too especially to a complete stranger, I pointed to a young girl ahead of me and asked her whether that girl was her sister.  She nodded in the negative and disappeared.  I continued my search, losing myself in the wide array of clothes.

A short while later, she came up to me again and assuming that she needed to give me a proper description of her sister, she informed me, “My sister’s name is Dianna”.   Now it was too much for me to resist having a conversation with her, and so I pointed to my daughter and said, “My daughter’s name is Lianne”.  She smiled and disappeared once again.

A few minutes later, I found her talking to Lianne.    Surprised by her friendliness and concerned for her safety, I told the little girl that she ought to stay with her parents.  But oblivious to my advice, she chatted away with Lianne, the way that long lost friends do.  Then taking Lianne to her mother and after introducing her, she told Lianne, “Let’s go around and make friends!”   It was a heart-warming sight for me, two strangers, a tall lanky teenager walking hand-in-hand with a toddler.  Soon it was time for us to leave and I had to break the news of our departure to our little friend.  She was crestfallen.   She said that she wanted to take Lianne home.  Amazed at the little girl’s love, we bid her farewell.  With a saddened face, she volunteered to give Lianne a piece of her candy.  After Lianne took it, we bid goodbye to our little new-found friend.

There are many lessons we can learn from little children.  In Mathew’s narrative,  the disciples come to their Master, Jesus and asked him, “Who, then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”.  Maybe on that day they were contemplating, the greatest as someone the most powerful or someone the most intelligent or someone the most qualified but surely they would have never expected Jesus’ answer.  He called a little child, and placing the child among them, said: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”(1).

Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”

The way to the top is the way down. It is in the ‘down’ there is the absence of polished pride, covered up flaws and pretentious character.   It is a place of being carefree and yet completely dependent on God.  It is a place of knowing who you are and being the best of who you are.

In his book Recapture the Wonder, Ravi Zacharias wrote, “The tragedy of growing up is not that we lose childishness in its simplicity, but that we lose childlikeness in its sublimity”.   In the process of adding years to our lives, we have sought after power, prestige and position, and in that journey, we have lost a life of childlikeness, a life that gives without expectation, receives without inhibition and loves without receiving anything in return.

“The tragedy of growing up is not that we lose childishness in its simplicity, but that we lose childlikeness in its sublimity” – Ravi Zacharias

Jesus, not only taught his disciples the definition of true humility but he also demonstrated it at the Cross. The Bible says,  “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion”(2).

The Bible says,  “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.”

That day as we walked out of the shopping centre, the little girl’s request to take Lianne home kept resonating in our ears, but as we passed by the busy shoppers, it dawned on us, that it was we, who needed to take her home.

Happy Children’s Day.

  • Mathew 18:4 (ESV)
  • Philippians 2:5-8 (MSG)

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