This post is the first in a series I plan to share over the next few weeks exploring some themes associated with childhood and my reflections on what it means to be a child in the Kingdom. The idea for this was triggered by a song called “Child Again” by NEEDTOBREATHE. I have provided a link to the song at the bottom of this post.
Shock & Awe
It does not take much to entertain a baby. You can play hide and seek with a baby by covering your face with your hands. When my son pulls my hands away from my face, he thinks it is hilarious. As an adult, I find it funny that a child could be entertained by this. Not just once, either. Over and over again. I often tire of it before he does.
It is the same with my other kids in different ways. They are all still young and I get a kick out of the things that they get excited about. The games they make up in the yard with leaves and sticks or the thrill they get from riding their bikes around our neighbourhood.
I remember being a child and experiencing the same things. I remember my plan to dig a hole to China when I was six or seven years old. I only got about a foot deep in my garden before I moved onto something else, but I did not know enough to know it was not possible.
Thinking about this, a question keeps coming up: When did it stop being possible?
What age was I when I gave up the impractical or fantastic thoughts? I do not remember, but I suspect it was a bit of a slow burn. We learn more at school, start to question things, find answers, and start to understand that the world has a certain order to it.
As we get older, we learn how to act, how to behave, and what behaviors result in the best outcomes – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
At some point, the wonderment of childhood becomes a relic of a simpler time, now past. Something you might think is cute in your own kids, but a nuisance for an adult living a serious life.
In the song I referenced at the beginning of this post there is a line that says “(I) traded magic for a measured hope, traded dreaming for a worn-out road”. I think of my own journey and the willingness to accept, and sometimes even pursue, the measured hope.
Along the way, most of us make trade-offs. We give up big dreams for stability now. We give up the desires of our hearts in exchanges for some security. We stop seeing the possible in pursuit of the probable.
In my training as an accountant, I learned to identify, assess, and ultimately reduce risk. There is a practical application for this approach in business, but I have allowed it to creep too far into other areas of my life. I notice it most when I am spending time with my children.
I watch the games they play outside. Or the adventures they make up as they are riding bikes in our neighbourhood. I remember doing the same sorts of things with my neighbourhood friends as a child. Yet, I often catch myself disengaged or thinking about the next task on my list to complete.
The adult version of me has too much experience and knowledge to engage in something as impractical as a silly child’s game.
Reflecting, I realize that as I have become ‘smarter’ I have also learned to limit possibilities. To focus on the practical rather than the adventurous or the unknown. In their own world, my children have not learned this lesson yet. They are capable of creating something out of nothing. There is no need to stop and analyze each aspect of it. There is no need to determine if it is realistic or not. They live joyfully.
Children and the Kingdom
In the Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3). I have always struggled to understand this passage. Becoming like a child seems to run counter to how life works – the older we get the less like children we become.
And I have realized that therein lies the problem.
I have noticed in myself as I have gotten older that sometimes I am too smart for my own good. I can be dismissive of ideas because I make assumptions. I can be set in my own ways or focus too much on the safe outcome rather than think about what is possible.
Children do not act like this. Children dream up what is possible and are free to do so; they are not limited by rules or experience.
As adults we place limits on what is possible based on our history, data, and the laws of science and nature. As the author of all of it, it would not make sense to look to God in the same way.
When I look at my own children playing, I see a freedom in it. They are free from the knowledge adults have. Their imaginations can take them places. As adults, we are bogged down with the realities of life. We often lack time or willingness to let our imaginations take over and spend time in wonder of the world around us.
It is much easier for children to use their imaginations because they have parents. Parents who are looking after all the practical parts of their lives. They are free to dream and not to worry about outcomes. They know their parents love them and will look after them.
I am not a theologian, but I believe Jesus is saying the same thing to us in how we relate to God the Father, at least in part. Like parents who ensure their children are safe and well taken care of, the Father wants to take care of us. He asks us to become reliant, like children, on Him.
Like little children, freedom is available to adults. When we realize that we can depend on the love of a good Father we can look to Him and choose to live as His children.
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