How often people look back upon their childhood as the happiest time of their lives! Forgetting their childish woes and trials, they remember only the freedom from anxiety and responsibility, the reliance on their parents' care and protection, the long, happy days of fun and play. They long to become little children again; but how impossible it seems! Yet Jesus said to his disciples, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." These true, childlike qualities of freedom, happiness, and spontaneity not only can but must be regained to attain the kingdom of heaven.
The first step towards this is to be converted,—to change our opinions, perhaps even our religion. We must come to know God as the loving Father-Mother, who is guarding and protecting man, able to supply all our needs and to direct our lives. This will lift the burden of anxiety and responsibility, giving us the freedom we long for. We shall look for and experience this care and guidance in our work; then work will cease to be irksome or oppressive, and become more interesting and joyous than play. This possibility is expressed by a character in "John Bull's Other Island," by George Bernard Shaw. In giving his idea of heaven, he pictures it, among other ideals, as "a commonwealth in which work is play and play is life." This would indeed be to regain the spirit of a child. The prophet Zechariah in his vision of the holy city declared that "the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof." He, too, had seen the child-thought in the kingdom of heaven.
But to enter this kingdom we must also regain the other childlike qualities of humility, simplicity, obedience, trust, and faith. Without these we cannot win heaven. These qualities were demanded by Jesus and the prophets as necessary even to the obtaining of health, which is to many the first step towards heaven. And we must remember that Jesus came teaching that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," that "the kingdom of God is within you;" and he brought people nearer to it, or rather made them realize it, by freeing them from the bondage of fear and disease. First, however, their trust and humility were tested. If they gave him unquestioning obedience, if they really had the faith they professed, they received their healing. These healings were instantaneous; but if we study them we shall also see that in each case, by some question or command from Jesus or by some word or action of the suppliant, there were revealed the childlike qualities that enabled them to enter the kingdom of health, which was to them at that moment the first glimpse of heaven.