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From Childish to Childlike: The Value of Transitions

Over the past few days, I have been talking about transitioning from childish to childlike.  But what are the benefits of going from childish to childlike?  If our goal is to be spiritually mature, why would we want to explore life as a child?

From the time I was seven years old until I was about sixteen, my life was chaotic.  My childhood was taken from me by divorce, stepparents, responsibilities, hidden emotions, and anxiety.  These events are still pretty tough for me to discuss, even though they happened nearly ten years ago.  When normal children were having fun and playing, I was in my house, trying to sort through how I felt.  I balanced taking care of my sister, seeing my parents, and entertaining a bipolar stepfather, while attempting to figure out why I was so anxious all the time.  My stepsisters made fun of me whenever I acted my age, despite the fact that they were only two years older than me.  They constantly compared themselves to me.  As a result, I put away childish things.  I grew up, forgetting the joy and peace I felt as a child.

During my college years, I was scared of growing up.  Whatever chance I had of going back to my childhood was over.  I cried a lot over the loss of opportunities.  I journaled about my fears and concerns, like getting a job or having my own family.  Because I missed my childhood, I did not feel safe about going into the future.

When I went on that retreat and played on the challenge course, I thought a lot about my childhood.  I remembered the fun time I had in kindergarten.  I remembered the embarrassing moments from elementary school.  I remembered my friends and the activities I enjoyed doing.  Honestly, although that time I had on the playground was short, it was helpful to grieve my childhood so that I could look toward the future.  It was not possible for me to grow up because I desired a childhood that I didn’t have.

As you walk from childishness to childlikeness, do not be afraid to grieve.  If you did not have a childhood, take some time to play. Humble yourself.  Take a break from work to do what you love.  Spend time with friends.  Look up at God and thank Him for the life that He has given you.

This blog post concludes my series “From Childish to Childlike.”  After a quick break this weekend, I will continue to discuss the importance of transitions.  Come back on Monday to read my new series. Thanks for your continued support.  Be blessed!

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From Childish to Childlike: It’s OK to Be OK

“It’s OK not to be OK.”  I would hear this phrase all the time at school.  This idea gave me the freedom to grieve and admit my shortcomings, trusting that I was not struggling alone.  I had the right to cry and get angry, and I had the right to ask for help.  That is true vulnerability.  In light of this mentality, I had the opportunity to deal with the emotions and thoughts that I had kept bottled inside me.

However, in my last year of college, I was blessed abundantly.  I had very little complaints; I only wanted to talk about how God was providing for me financially, how I had a great mentor that taught me so much, and how I had seen an incredible amount of miracles.  I had the ability to be thankful for the little things.  Generally, I was satisfied with my life; even when problems came my way, I had peace that everything would work out in the end.

Although I was doing well, I was surrounded by people who were in tough situations.  I would walk into the cafeteria, full of joy, and would come across friends that were in horrible moods.  After seeing their sorrow, I would feel awkward about my happiness.  Could I boast about the blessings that I have received, or should I emphasize with my friend by finding something to be sad about?  If I knew someone was having an off day (or even an off week), I would avoid her, hiding the joy that I felt.

It may be OK not to be OK, but it is also OK to be OK.  In a world full of negativity and complaining, it is nice to have a ray of hope shine through.  Negativity is overwhelming, so it takes a lot of strength to be joyful.  If you’re having a good day, do not be afraid to show your happiness!

As a result of my freedom and joy, I dance.  Dancing makes me feel like there are no limitations, no burdens holding me back.  I may not be very good at dancing, but I do it anyway.  People have told me that they enjoy watching me dance because they can see how happy I am.

When I graduated college, my friend dedicated the song “I Hope You Dance,” by Lee Ann Womack, to me.  I think that this song describes childlikeness perfectly.  It is clear that this song is a dedication to children. Based on the lyrics of this song, here are ten ways I have discovered that it is possible to dance, to be OK even in the midst of struggle:

1.  Keep Dreaming: Like I said in the last post, dreaming is a risk, but life is not worth living without hope.

2.  Never Settle For Less: Even when you are satisfied with the way things are, do not be afraid to expect more.

3.  Be Thankful for EVERYTHING: Whatever you have is a gift, and you would miss it if it was gone.  Instead of complaining about what you don’t have, be thankful for what you do have.

4.  Pray and Trust God to Provide: God is faithful, and He will not leave you in want when you put your trust in Him.

5.  Be Humble: It is OK to boast in your strengths, but remember not to think any better of yourself than of someone else.

6.  Take Risks as New Opportunities Arise: If a situation does not work out, keep looking for new opportunities.

7. Hope Against All Hope: Even when it seems impossible, believe.

8.  When You Have to Choose, Don’t Let Fear Decide For You: Fear ends in failure; live your life in joy rather than in anxiety.

9.  Don’t Fear the Future: Approach new situations with hope and excitement instead of fear.

10.  Don’t Choose the Comfortable Route Just Because It’s Easier: Life is difficult; it is full of suffering and trials, but it is worth it.

So, if you’re OK, let your joy shine!  I hope that instead of negativity, that you choose to dance in joy and freedom.

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From Childish to Childlike: Sharing is Caring

When my sister was born, I had to change a lot about how I saw the world.  I used to have my parents all to myself.  I did not have to fight for their attention.  I would enjoy their company.  I would also enjoy the possessions that they gave me.  I did not need to share them with anyone.  Once my sister was born, I had to learn how to share my parents and my possessions.  Honestly, it was not easy. Whenever I would feel comfortable with my stuff, my sister would want to play with them.  I was having fun, and she wanted to have fun, so she tried to take my toys from me.  I would push her away, and she would cry and hug my mom.

I thought that the toys were my source of love and security.  When I was good, my parents bought me toys.  My grandma would give me gifts every time I would see her.  My toys meant that I was loved.  My childish brain could not comprehend that my sister needed love too.  Not only that, but she loved me.  She didn’t only want to enjoy my toys; she wanted to enjoy my company as well.  She wanted us to have fun together.  She wanted to be loved by my parents’ with me, not instead of me.  It was not a competition between us.  However, I was so used to having my parents’ love all to myself that I did not know how to share it with other people.

I didn’t realize that my relationship with my parents was not dependent on what I received.  I was always going to be their daughter, and I was always going to be loved by them.  My sister also had that relationship with my parents, but in a different way.  It wasn’t until I became comfortable with my identity as my mom’s daughter that I was able to share my toys, my time, and my love with my sister.  Now, my sister and I are really good friends.  We share almost everything.  We have both learned that our identities are not found in our possessions.

Even as an adult, I struggle with taking pride in what I have.  One thing I take pride in is my joy.  I have a lot of joy; even when people are angry around me, I have the ability to be joyful.  However, I am so used to being the only joyful person around me, that it is difficult to enjoy being happy with other people.  Sometimes, I feel like my joy is an indicator of my relationship with God.  The more joy I feel, the stronger my relationship is with God.  So when other people take joy in the things that give me joy, I feel like I have less of God.  However, by sharing my joy with others, I am giving them the opportunity to experience the joy of the Lord as well.  Not only that, but I am allowing others to rejoice with me, so that I am not alone.  I am able to receive more of what God has for me; I experience true community as well as abundant joy when I share the joy that God has given me with other people.

As I go from childish to childlike, I remember that I am not the only one in the entire world that God wants to bless. He wants all people to experience his joy.  My relationship with God does not change because of my responsibility to share my gifts.  I am always going to be his daughter, and I am always going to be loved by him.  Only from true satisfaction in our relationship with God can we truly share the joy that he has given us, trusting that he will provide even more.

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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.