From Childish to Childlike: Learning to Live in the Light

I posted this in another blog that I have, but I wanted to write it here because I wanted to continue my blog series.  Enjoy!

In the famous love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul says that when he became older, he gave up childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).  This appears to be a call for us to let go of anything that is childish.  As you grow in spiritual maturity, you should put away things that produce spiritual immaturity.  However, Jesus tells us that if we do not become like children, we will not partake in the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3).  Jesus calls us to inherit the kingdom of God just like a child (Mark 10:15).

How can these two ideas work together?  How can we put away childish things and still remain childlike?

A few weeks ago, I went on a retreat with my class.  We were all given assignments to take on for eight hours.  After serious prayer, my spiritual director and her assistant decided that my assignment was to play.  They brought me to a challenge course, prayed for me, and walked away.  I looked around at what I saw:  steps made out of tires that were suspended a few feet off the ground; a tight rope literally inches from the ground, with a rope attached to a tree to help me keep balance; a few blocks of wood to serve as benches; and lots of rocks.  At first, I questioned this whole thing.  How could I abandon all the maturity, all the rules, all the responsibilities that I have acquired during my twenty-one years of living?  But then I realized…I had eight hours to do whatever I wanted.  No one was around either, so who was going to judge me?  The sunlight hit my face between the shade of the trees.  Joy exuded through me. I was ready.

For eight hours, I did everything I had loved to do as a child.  I skipped on the rocks that were scattered all around the ground.  Pretending the dirt was molten lava, I ran around the rocks as if my life depended on it.  Then, when I got bored, I started jumping off some boulders into the cool, moist dirt.  I got to a point where I just danced.  I didn’t care who was watching (if anyone); I was free to do whatever I wanted.

As I acted like a child, memories of my childhood came back to my head.  I meditated on a few things my parents said to me, as well as incidents I had in school.  God helped me to find healing to the hurts that I had felt, but he also reminded me of the good times that I had in my childhood.

Ironically, this experience helped me to transition to adulthood.  All of the things that hindered me as a child no longer mattered; I was an adult now, so I was able to shake off my limitations.  I could hear the memory of my parents saying, “That’s not safe.  If you do that, you’ll get hurt.”   On this retreat, I jumped off of rocks and fell in the dirt.  I did everything that my parents had told me was unsafe.  I did somersaults, which I was told could actually break my neck.  What held me back before was childish.  I was now free to do what I felt like doing.  I was now free to do what God was calling me to do.  I was now free to live like a child.

Because of this experience, I have become more childlike.  However, I have put away childish things.  Over these next few weeks, I will be writing about the difference between childlike and childish in more detail.  As I learn what it means to have childlike faith, and as I lay down my pride and put childish things to death, I hope to encourage you that it is possible to have spiritual maturity while maintaining the freedom of a child.

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