There’s nothing quite like the beaming joy of a child. Uncomplicated, innocent, unburdened by cynicism or fear.
It’s pretty different from the “beaming” joy of an adult. Way too often, we’re hobbled by the trappings of adulthood. We’re bound to the process of becoming what we call “mature.” And by “mature,” we usually just mean lowering our own expectations.
If you really think about it, it’s difficult to take the concept of worldly maturity entirely seriously.
There’s very little about life in the world that we would understand as “mature.” Our world confuses pessimism for realism, cynicism for perception and negativity for truth.
The world of our old self doesn’t sell itself very well as a sophisticated and seasoned environment to grow up in. However, the worldly concept of maturity suggests that childhood should be a state of protected grace, and that without that protection, it falls victim to a fallen society around it. When the world itself touches on childhood–when innocence is corrupted by experience–there is a corresponding loss of vitality and an increase in the negativity of oppression and fear.
It’s the open hand versus the closed fist.
That, in a nutshell, is the way the world views growing up. Maturity is something to be sought after, but it’s also something that’s poisoned, corrupted and decaying. Childhood is precious and to be treasured and protected, but it’s also something to be escaped as soon as possible.
We’re convinced that we shouldn’t encourage children to mature beyond their years, but rather urge them to appreciate their youth while they can. And yet, we constantly belittle them, condescend to them and patronize them.
But here’s the rub: We’re all children in the Kingdom.
We’re all newborn and learning. We never stop growing in the Spirit, because everything that the Spirit is working towards in us boils down to one simple objective: to make us more like Jesus. And one of the fundamental aspects to our experience with Him has to be a childlike view of exactly where we are in Him.
We’re invited to cultivate a feeling of blank, delirious astonishment at the fullness of Christ in us! We need the wow factor that only a child can properly express—that gleeful rejoicing in something so unspeakably cool that it makes us want to bounce up and down with excitement.
The world loves to place ideas and people in neat, nicely manageable boxes. That’s why we get terms like youth and maturity, child and adult, innocence and experience. In the Kingdom, we’re not nearly so insecure that we feel the need to compartmentalize and rationalize life into convenient, bite-size chunks.
It’s perfectly possible to be a grown-up, with responsibilities and dependents, and still retain a childlike sensibility.
The Holy Spirit knows the difference between “childlike” and “childish.”
Given that attitude, it’s not surprising that we’re the best advertisements for the Good News. How can we not be, when the rhythm of our lives is captivated by Jesus? In Him, we’ve reclaimed childhood for adults and rehabilitated maturity for the child in all of us. We’re walking commercials for the capacity of Christ to renew and restore the world.
God allows and even engineers situations designed to establish further astonishment in our lives, to restore the childlike simplicity we need to move in His Kingdom.
There’s no fear in us, no insecurity. We’re given more love than we could ever need, and there’s more still to come as our capacity to feel and express love grows.
Smile along with us. It’s all going to end in laughter: the delighted chuckle of a child, amazed at how wonderful life can be.
P.S. If interested, I talk more about this kingdom approach to life in “Mind of a Saint.“