Children and Art
[C]hildren and art, according to Sondheim, are the only two things worth leaving behind in this world. As a dad with a big family, I’ve left behind quite a few of the first. Six, to be exact. Then, as someone who can’t bear to toss his kids pictures away, I’m also working on leaving behind quite a bit of the second. Recently I was going through some of it. I always ask them what it is and write down what they say as the piece’s title. One rather delightful example from my (then) four-year old is entitled, “That’s your map and your boat. We’re going to the zoo with your friends.” The title is as good as the picture.
If the saying is true—about children and art—then they must have some things in common. Consider a few parallels. Each child is unique, like a work of art. Each work of art requires, perhaps demands our attention. Each is costly: time, money, and emotional energy are required. Some have even described the artistic process as a giving birth. Children and art both have seasons. Every artist has his or her early years, as I noticed while visiting the “Late Renoir” exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art a couple of weeks ago. Jesus loves each. I suppose he had to love art. Any first century craftsman certainly must have had an eye for line and shape. But Jesus wasn’t merely a man. He was also fully God. As such, God the Son not only designed the ornate features of the earthly temple, but created the whole cosmos as a kind of holy temple, which, in its beauty, “declares the glory of God.” But the Lord’s love for children is perhaps better known. Even the most skeptical may yet have heard the song “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” On one occasion, Jesus actually rebukes his disciples and demands the children not be kept from him: “Let the little children come to me and hinder them not.” His rationale? “For to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Apparently if you want to be one of God’s works of art in heaven, you have to become like a little child. Artists need the kind of curiosity that children have. They need to be a little “innocent” in order to create. They need the expectancy that something “big” might be around the corner. They need to lack a certain level of self-awareness. They need to have time; grown ups never seem to have enough time for anything. In some parent-child craft activities I’ve been involved with over the years, I enjoy watching the grown ups. They sometimes enjoy making stuff as much if not more than the kids. Some people talk about discovering an inner child. I don’t object to this way of seeing things; I take it to mean finding, and keeping, an attitude of dependence upon Abba. Daddy. Sondheim’s advice, as with all “think about what you want to leave behind” kind-of-advice, focuses on what lasts, what is eternal. If heaven is a creative place, where we get to make and design things (and not just play harps on a cloud while wearing a toga), then it’s a good thing God won’t let anyone but kids in. We have a lot of art to make in eternity. I’m glad Ruminate
is encouraging us to get a head start.
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