Author C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, some of the most recognized books in children’s literature. For decades, children have grown up hearing Lewis’ tales and watching the movie adaptations of his work.
But despite his talent for connecting with kids’ imaginations, Lewis once wrote that he didn’t enjoy being with children. Seems strange for a children’s author. But Lewis’ response to his own disinterest can still teach us: “I recognize this as a defect in myself,” he wrote.
But should it matter whether an older, well-educated author (and bachelor) liked to be around children? Why would Lewis see this as a “defect”? Bringing the question closer to home — why should single adults care about kids?
Why children matter
One day as Jesus taught crowds in Judea, some children came to see Him. We aren’t told much about who these children were or how old they were, only that the people who brought the children hoped that Jesus would pray over them — but were promptly rebuked by the disciples.
Jesus stopped His helpers from sending the children away. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,” he said, “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
For centuries — probably millennia —children have been undervalued or unwelcome. While most cultures no longer operate under the mantra that children should be “seen and not heard,” in practice that is often still true. In fact, my family couldn’t book a stay at an Airbnb recently because it was listed as adults-only, and my youngest brother is still a teen.
But Jesus valued children.
I think Jesus’ response to children shines a light on His response to us. In a very real sense, we are just as helpless and unhelpful to God as those children were to Jesus’ mission on earth. Yet God values us not because of any usefulness we might have, but simply because He loves us. Just like He loved those children.
In a sense, it’s simple: We should value and welcome children because Jesus did, and because He welcomes us.
But there’s another reason.
We live in a culture that kills millions of children a year through abortion. Abortion proponents often try to characterize pro-life Christians as people who care only about children before they’re born. By welcoming children in our lives just as Jesus did, we prove to the world that we value all people, and that Jesus welcomes the least of these.
Let the children come (with you)
But how do we do this? Valuing children isn’t just something to check off the list once or twice a month. Welcoming children should always be part of our perspective, though it can look different at different times. Some people might volunteer with children regularly, like in the church nursery or a mentoring organization. Others may regularly spend time with a family with kids, or team up with a friend to provide childcare for a family for an event. We should also be careful to value all children, and not only the children we’re related to or who seem easier to work with.
Like every area of the Christian life, we should make sure that our work with children is above reproach. Sometimes this will mean having a background check or taking a child abuse prevention or awareness class before volunteering.
As single adults, we can come alongside parents and reinforce what they are teaching their kids. We can show them how people follow God in daily life and talk with them about their own beliefs and questions.
Our time with children doesn’t have to be elaborate. Maybe we go out for ice cream and ask them about school or sports or what they want to do when they grow up. Maybe they’d like tagging along with us while we go to the zoo or a football game or even grocery shopping. We might make a memory that sticks with them for years.
And not just with them.
What we lose
A couple of weeks ago, a 12-year-old in the Bible study I help with shared her thoughts as we studied Philippians 1. “God is desirable,” she mused aloud, explaining how He’s the real deal — you want to get in on what He’s offering. We talked about how sometimes it’s annoying when people try to sell us something by telling us it’s better than it is, but that doesn’t happen with God. He’s “like an ad you can never be scammed on,” she said.
I kept coming back to that. I even told another friend my age about it. The kids in our lives have much to teach us if we take the time to learn. Honestly? We’re losing out by not spending time with them.
I respect C.S. Lewis for his honest admission. But notice he saw his discomfort in being with children as a fault; He didn’t chalk it up to his personality or his stage of life.
Several years after Lewis wrote that infamous opinion, he married a woman with two young sons. One of those sons later wrote that “I rarely met a man who was better with children,” adding that he felt Lewis’ previous sentiment meant he just didn’t feel comfortable around kids.
Maybe. Or maybe Lewis worked to improve his interactions with kids. Maybe we can, too.
Do we welcome the children around us? Do we see their value even when they change our plans (or our friends’ plans)? Or interrupt the relaxing atmosphere at a restaurant or in an airplane? Do we pray for children we know? Do we make room for them in our schedules and plans?
Copyright 2022 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.