Children naturally open up to love. They know how to receive love, practical love, from the moment of birth. You witness the openness of an infant in the way babies open their mouths to be fed. Place your knuckle on the cheek of a baby, and the little one will turn with open mouth to receive. The vulnerability of a little one is enchanting. However, as a child grows, the child learns that others may take advantage of such openness.
When my two sons were quite young, the youngest just a baby, I heard them in the kitchen. The little one was in his high chair. I heard the little one sputter and spit while the older one laughed and laughed. This happened a couple of times before I left my books and went into the kitchen. I discovered that the older brother knew that no matter what you brought in front of little brother’s mouth, little brother would open up to receive. The older brother was putting a piece of lemon on his little brother’s tongue. I had a little chat with older brother.
I also saw in this incident a picture of how we learn to close down, to hide our vulnerability, and exchange openness for reserve, caginess, reticence. When our openness is taken advantage of, if we are children or adults, we learn to approach life with much more caution and care. Consider the story of the piece of lemon an illustration of how we are hurt, abused, neglected and rejected, and learned to close down.
Now, consider the challenge of Jesus when he said, “Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” The love of God is ours, freely given. Faith is trusting, becoming vulnerable, so that our lives are open to God’s gift of love.
Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.