Why does it smell like onion grass in my daughter’s bedroom?
Who broke my headband?
Why are my piano keys sticky?
Where is my spatula?
Who wiped all these boogies on the wall?…and who will clean them up?
If you have children, or have been around children, you know that anything is a toy. And any toy can be used for any playful purpose, aside from its intended function. A regular old Tupperware becomes “Lamby’s night-night box.” And thus, while walking through the store, my daughter exclaims, “Look at all the night-night boxes!”
Instead of a guardian angel watching over me at night, I have Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer tucked between the headboard of my bed and the wall. And sometimes, keeping company with him is Hello Kitty, Bearsies, and Ducky. We feel very safe at night with all that attention.
I wonder why we don’t retain that amazing capability for imagination. What would the world be like if we could keep hold of our childhood creativity while maturing into responsible adults?
I’m fascinated with brain development, not that I know much about it. But I do know that during late elementary years or early middle school years, a child’s brain begins to function more abstractly. I think it is during this time when lots of our creativity says, “bye bye! It’s too crammed in here for me!” Suddenly, we’re thinking about deeper issues. We’re studying why things happened in history, not just what happened. We’re beginning to internalize financial burdens or joys, sports failures or successes, how musical and artistic talents, or other abilities, affect our identities. And we realize we actually have identities. Life becomes more than, “Let’s play!” Life becomes, “Let’s think.” Or for some, “Let’s worry.”
There’s a part of me that mourns my forever bygone childhood. I yearn for that freedom when I wasn’t worried about mortgages, job security, or relationships. I was loved and I knew it. What more could a child want?
Sometimes, when I lay in bed quietly at night, I remember being little. I think of the family vacations we took, I remember learning to play basketball with my dad, practicing the piano with my mom beside me on the bench. I remember the contentment of simple silliness with my sister. And with these memories, something cries inside my heart. Time is a back-stabbing friend. You look ahead to future days, but after you’ve lived through them, you miss the past.
I don’t write these things to sound melancholic. I had a wonderful childhood which I’m trying to recreate with my children. But I do write these things to think about Christ’s words calling us to a childlike faith. This is good news, that we don’t have to set aside childhood. We may gain responsibility, which is inevitable, but Jesus gives us the excuse to be childlike.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4
A child knows his need. She is not afraid to show affection. He is not side-tracked by “important” things. She willingly accepts truth from those she trusts. Can we be these things in our relationship with the Lord? Will we allow ourselves to remain unburdened? He has promised that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Will we seek out his affection and delight? He’s given us the freedom to be innocent and full of wonder before him. Let’s not throw away that opportunity.