I propose that within every adult is a desire to be a child again. What is more, that desire is not something to hide or ignore, rather, it is the very desire that leads us to live fully, that gives us access to Life – our Father.
Take a look at what gives you delight (and if you aren’t sure anymore, then dig into this question and find it back!). Is it hanging out with people you care about? Is it being silly and playing games? Or perhaps it is getting wrapped up in a good story, or exploring, or discovering something new. Don’t you feel alive then, so much so that you’ve likely lost your self-consciousness? You are wrapped up in the fun and wonder of it, the clock no longer exists, and the “shoulds” and “have-to’s” have lost their hold on you.
Ironically, it was during the years of my children being very little that I lost my desire to be a child. I still had it, I just couldn’t find it. I remember hearing from other mothers how having children gave them an excuse to play and be like a child – they were fulfilled and glowing with their role. I, on the other hand, found it very difficult to play with the kids. I have since learned that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be as a child, I just take delight in other things – many of which are difficult to do with very young kids. The few that I could do with them I dove into almost with a fearful tenacity, as if my life depended on it.
I didn’t realize it then, but it did.
Those delights kept me sure of my good Father, kept me connected, kept me comforted in an otherwise dull and difficult season. A mom of young kids easily becomes overwhelmed with all the nitty gritty care of these wee ones – it is a laundry list of “shoulds” and “musts” that easily drowns the exhausted spirit not buoyed by surety that someone good and loving and greater than her is caring for her.
When we do the things that make us feel a child again, we often feel that someone good and loving and greater than us is caring for us.
Because we don’t know this, or we don’t like it, we hide or ignore our desire to be as a child. In so doing, we hide or ignore our Father, our greatest caregiver and chance of living fully.
You may have heard the oft-quoted idea that everyone was created with a God-shaped hole in them that only God can fill. Jesus was describing this idea in John 7:37-39:
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit…
“From within them” is from the Greek word koilia which means belly, stomach, womb and, by extension, means feelings and emotions. It is an empty place meant to be filled. It is the spiritual place from which comes hunger and thirst, and into which is poured grace and love so that we can birth the same. Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable; in other words, by God himself. (VII(425))
When you come to Jesus as a child, he fills this craving hole. No matter how old we are, we are still God’s children. It is a fundamental part of our identity. He made us to be dependent on Him, to receive His care, and enjoy being with Him.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13
The things that help you be as a child are access points to your Father.
What helped me out of my difficult season was rediscovering childlike delight. Things like cross-country skiing, reading The Lord of the Rings, exploring a new park. As I did those things I would always receive a sense that my Father was there with me, enjoying these things with me. Sometimes that sense was overwhelming and I would weep. There is a tree in the park I ski in that has witnessed many times of tears of wonder and gratitude. Slowly, but surely, through these good, delightful, childlike things, I was warmed and reassured of my Father’s care until it was no longer a rare feeling or a struggling belief.
Had I not done those things and continued determinedly on in my very great responsibilities I would have drifted further and further from the experience and knowledge of my Father’s care – not that it would have actually been gone, but I would not have known it, and I would have remained desperately hungry. And when we are desperately hungry, but do not take action to get the nourishing food, we will eat anything; we will become indiscriminate and selfish in our “hangry” state. It is here that the world lives, sadly. And so we see adults driven by selfishness, acting like tantrumming two-year-olds, trying to drown the emptiness rather than be filled. We adults have believed the lie that we must do it all, we are on our own, with no one to care for us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We see in Mark 10:13-15 Jesus’s strong response to those who withhold children from him:
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
So let us not hide or refuse our desire to be a child before God. Like a mother and a father hurt by the fact that their child wouldn’t come to them for help, Jesus is angered by this! He wants us near, he wants to give us the kingdom, he wants to pour his love into our empty places.