Adulting. We know we have to do it. Nobody gets to be Peter Pan. And it’s so easy to get annoyed with people who can’t seem to grow up. We want people to take responsibility for their actions and be productive members of society. And, of course, we all know that selfishness is not a virtue. Life should never be about me, myself, and I. But sometimes we get so consumed with the weight of our responsibilities and the expectations placed upon us that we forget the value of childlikeness.
Think about the things that come so easily for most children. Trust, wonder, laughter, belief, joy, excitement, carefree fun. Children possess a natural ability to live from the heart, to embrace the good in their midst. Somewhere along the way, this capacity dwindles for most of us. But this unique moment in time, as many of us are confined to our homes, might just be a perfect opportunity to rediscover what’s been lost. It might be the remedy you need to see you through a challenging season.
What are some things that brought you joy as a child that you haven’t done in years?
Throughout my childhood, I loved climbing trees. The tamarack tree behind our yellow farmhouse was made for climbing. Its lowest branch was perfectly positioned, with a little help from a well-placed foot on the trunk, for hoisting oneself upward. The branches were evenly spaced and the needles were soft. Even the least athletically inclined, which I consider myself, could easily climb to the highest branches. Only once did I fall from a significant height, thankfully suffering no more than mere scrapes and bruises. Without skipping a beat, I was right back at it, climbing my old friend.
I also loved the enormous willow tree in our yard. It was much more difficult to climb, but my dad built me a treehouse so I could enjoy that tree as well. It was the perfect place to spend an afternoon with a friend singing songs from Girl Scout camp or dropping water balloons.
Days spent in the trees were times when I had the greatest sense of God’s presence. I was completely myself, without a care in the world. And even when I did bring my worries or anxiety with me, the tree was a safe place to let go, to give my burdens to God. I don’t know if that was a conscious thought process, but it’s how those moments feel as I reflect upon them.
I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
A couple of years ago, I was asked to speak on short notice at a Christian conference. I had no idea what I should share, but when I asked God for help, I heard two words. Full circle. I wasn’t sure what that meant; but as I sat quietly, it began to unfold. In recent months, God had begun to bring me back to a place of wonder. The place that I knew as a child. The place where I did not doubt his existence as I watched the wind move magically through the leaves of the willow tree. God was bringing me home, back to his heart. Full circle. That sense of wonder had never completely left me. There were certainly moments when I still experienced it, but they grew further apart the older I became. My heart had grown hard, but God was softening it, restoring something of my childlikeness. It felt like freedom!
Has your heart grown hard over the years? Do you feel like you’ve left a part of yourself behind? Is there an absence of joy in your life? Are you preoccupied with what others think of you? Do you feel like fun is just a waste of valuable time? Ponder these questions and ask God for his perspective. You might be surprised.
More and more I’ve begun to understand the reason why Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16) Childlikeness opens us to all that our Father has for us, allowing us to step out of cynicism and judgment into a place of trust and belief. Are you willing to become as a little child and receive? What gifts might God have waiting for you?
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Shay Mason