Dr. Seuss said that “Adults are obsolete children.” Many of us fear that obsolescence. We don’t want to be unrelentingly grim and somber and to shoulder so much “grown up” responsibility that it breaks our backs and our spirits.
We want to keep or, if we’ve lost them, to recover the wonder, playfulness, and delight of children. Jesus want us to keep and recover them, too, which, I’m convinced, has something to do with his telling us we have to become like children to enter the kingdom of God.
Of course, there’s a vast difference, which we all recognized, between childlike and childish. Childishness is a problem for which childlikeness is actually part of the solution. Childishness is, essentially, a kind of pathological self-centeredness which reduces life to little more than “I-me-mine.” Childishness is uber-narcissism: “It’s all about me.”
Childlikeness is freedom, including freedom from the burden of unhealthy self-consciousness (which differs so much from healthy self-awareness).
The freedom of childlikeness comes trust that God knows us, welcomes us, and holds us close. It knows that when we fail and fall, we fail and fall into God’s arms, which means we may risk the adventure of living with holy abandon.
We don’t have to hedge and trim who we are to be accepted. God accepts us already.
We don’t have to dampen-down our voices or hide our gifts, because we have God’s permission and encouragement to make full use of who we are in pursuit of our own, and the world’s, healing and flourishing.
We can live freely, like a child running in the sunshine on a spring day, because God has given and is giving us everything we need to be and do all that God has called us to be and do.
We don’t have to search for the love we crave, because God loves us already with a love so intimate, so powerful, so constant, and so good that it turns us from a fear of life to an embrace of it.
We live with our eyes, ears, minds, hearts, and hands wide-open to the world, not because it won’t ever hurt us, but because even hurt can’t separate us from the Divine.
We live with playfulness and prayerfulness, which are, I am learning, almost the same thing.
Childlikeness revels and rests in mystery; it welcomes and celebrates wonder as a way of knowing.
“Oh, the places you’ll go! There’s fun to be done!” wrote Dr. Seuss.
“Follow me. Become like children,” Jesus said.
It might be that those invitations aren’t all that different from each other.