"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 18:3
Ever since my sisters and I were young children, our mom would encourage us to “live beautifully.”
As a child, it was easy to do so. I found everything so beautiful: So many of the people, places, and things that I encountered all around me were filled with beauty. My warm grandmother, my dusty neighborhood park, and my random collections of stickers, books, and dried leaves (pressed between the pages of these books) were all so, so beautiful.
But as I moved away from childhood, I found myself asking, “What does it mean to live beautifully?” I saw beauty in magazines and faraway destinations and the latest things that I could buy. And I saw beauty as something to achieve in the future: If I followed the right formula for getting good grades, working hard, and keeping a perfect appearance, I could achieve a beautiful life… eventually. Only when feelings of emptiness arose would I be brought back to the present and ask myself, “Am I really living beautifully right now?”
These feelings of emptiness also led me to grow in my faith, because only the Lord could fill me up and bring true beauty into my life, in the present moment. As I have grown more dependent on Him, I have relearned how to see the beauty in all of the people, places, and things right in front of me. I still have moments, still rather frequently, when I fall into the trap of depending on myself, worrying about the future, and getting distracted by the beautiful things of this world.
And that is when Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Now, as an elementary school teacher, I can see Jesus’ words alive in my students. As children, they truly know how to live beautifully. I believe that their witness provides us with a children’s guide to living a beautiful life according to the Beatitudes:
1. Depend on God. Children love asking for help with everything, from completing an assignment to opening a bag of chips. They teach us to grow more dependent upon God and ask Him for help in all of our shortcomings.
2. Be quick to comfort those around you. I have heard students say, “I’m sorry you got in trouble,” and give their classmates a hug, teaching us to look outside of ourselves and be present to those around us.
3. Be humble. Children can be so humble, and live both freely and fully alive by being themselves. This teaches us that, in true humility, we can only compare ourselves to Jesus (instead of others) in order to become who we are meant to be.
4. Have a strong sense of justice. Children know what is truly right or wrong, especially if anyone ever skips in line or does not play fair at recess. This inspires us to see what is what is right clearly and treat others justly.
5. Be merciful. Children are quick to forgive, especially when it comes to arguing about the injustice of not sharing art supplies. The most beautiful part of their reconciliation is that they move on with joy, teaching us to be more merciful towards each other.
6. Be innocent. Because children are innocent, they clearly see God working in their lives. My students love to share how God answers their prayers and trust that He will help them. Children remind us to see God’s beautiful work in every encounter.
7. Strive for peace. Children are peacemakers and learn to problem solve with each new argument that arises. They show us how to work towards peace, both in the great and small situations of our everyday lives.
8. Persevere. Children strive to do what is right, even when it is the more difficult decision. Their little examples teach us perseverance in following Jesus.
Little saints naturally follow what Jesus teaches us through the Beatitudes, leading us to do the same. As we grow older, we grow in the understanding that we are all called to sainthood by living beautifully like children.