The life of a child is the best life ever. Maybe that is because they are so freshly from God. Truly, as the saying goes, “everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.”
As we approach middle age and our priorities begin to shift, we go to great lengths to grasp, again, that which was lost in the confusing, conflicting, chaos of life. In our quest we spend large amounts of money, write volumes of books on the subject, commit suicide over it, and adopt extreme lifestyle changes to find it. Ah, the simplicity and innocence of childhood, the best life ever.
Not convinced that it is what everyone is looking for, striving towards, and woefully unfulfilled over?
Well, let’s look at a few examples:
At the ripe old age of forty six, I did the unthinkable. I stood sideways in front of a full-length mirror. That slender and beautifully toned vision of loveliness that doggedly persisted in my mind’s eye was replaced by the stark (pun intended) reality of more than one pudgy little abnormality, for sure. So I took up walking with more than a little vengeance. The steeper the terrain the better. I prefer country roads replete with health-giving oxygen searing into my lungs. Besides, the gentle sounds of mysterious fowl singing, and aromas of poplar and pine have a way of transplanting me back. Back to my childhood.
I pondered this on a recent hike. It used to be so easy, so effortless, getting the body to move and enjoying the life-giving properties of the great outdoors. Twirling around until dizziness overtook me and falling to the ground. Chasing my brothers out past the barn and down to the stream. Chasing, or determined to keep up. Staying out way past dark and dreading the thought of having to go inside. Oh, how the tables have turned. I have to admit that for many years since, the house became my haven and going outdoors was an imposition. And how sad I was becoming on the inside.
It is unnatural to be indoors so much (sitting, standing, reading, eating, visiting, working, watching TV, cooking, cleaning). It is equally unnatural for us to schedule outdoor activities for thirty minutes a day. We find ourselves longing for a better life. Longing for our childhood. Though, quite often, we have no idea that is what we are longing for. No idea that is what we need.
And then there is the issue of friendship. It doesn’t come as naturally as it once did. We are much more cautious, much more protective than we used to be. Certainly more selective. And guess what? We are lonely. There are billions of people on the earth with a greater sense of loneliness and isolation than ever before in the history of man. We have criteria. We have expectations. We also have appearances to keep up.
But it used to be much simpler than that, didn’t it? As children, we just wanted to DO, not be any certain way. We took our friends as they were quirks and all. We learned acceptance and to work with one another. Really, we just wanted to play. Play for us was community. Community was such an unashamed need. We’d stand for hours at the playground asking others to play with us, or waiting to be asked. Yes, we were unashamed to expose this innate need to love and be loved, to be accepted, to share and experience together.
But all it took was a couple of blows. A dose of being laughed at, ridiculed, left out- and we started to lay the brick work for our walls. Walls that, by the time we reach middle age, are heavily fortified. Walls prisoners live behind. That which we set out to protect, we ultimately destroy.
Deep down inside we know it. And we wish things could be different. Simpler. And we longingly reminisce back through the years. Back to when our hand so easily took Sally’s and swung hard into the next adventure. Yes, our deepest needs, our deepest longings go back many many years.
Every time I’m out walking and I see a low branched spruce, my heart leaps at the sight of her blue needles cushioning the ground underneath. I remember the last time this happened. I was overwhelmingly drawn to the corner of the yard where these conifers hid secret alcoves long ago explored and adored as a child. The house itself was extremely modest, and yet, I was quite certain that I could live happily at this address for the rest of my life.
In my twenties and thirties, I was drawn to the modern more fancy houses. A sign of status and success I supposed. But now, what is important to me are those special spots of beauty in a yard, the rooms of a house that make it a “home,” the quilts over the couch, the screen door opening onto a covered porch, tires piled up behind the old shed In the back where wild pink roses trail off the roof.
You see, I remember less clearly the actual events of my childhood. What stands out are the smell of spruce boughs, a lovely bed of pine needles, silver leaves in aspen groves dancing in the wind, a vague memory of wild rose scent while hiding behind shed with a salt shaker and cucumbers stolen from the garden.
If our modern homes cannot give us these simple child-like pleasures and create these kinds of tranquilities in our aging hearts, then they will stand magnificent and stately and nothing more. For all of their grandeur and glamour, they will leave us looking longingly out windows with hands grasping into thin air for we know not what.
Houses are a shell, but homes are the pearl inside. Children disregard the shell and take the pearls and wear them. Children are wiser than we are.
If a child wants to sing, then a child sings. If a child wants to cry, then a child cries. If a child wants to roam, then a child roams. If a child likes trucks, then a child plays with a truck. But when a child is older, his choices are limited. He is told that he may only be and do certain things. He is assured that there are good reasons for this. (Why, there are bills to pay and certain things expected of those living in societies!)
All throughout life, however, we long to do what we love instead of what we have to do. This is a lie that few people get out from under. Few people have escaped the fences of society to roam free in the meadows. Let this be a challenge to you today. Go and dance with the children in the meadows. Figure out how. I know you want to. It is one of your greatest needs.
There is a man who works day and night to further his business and build his wealth. It is a thriving business with thirteen employees. He doubles his hours to be able to afford the best of everything for his wife and children. He works steadily for years buildings his empire. The goal is to live peacefully and without any responsibility in his old age; to enjoy the grandchildren all gathered around. He looks forward to fishing off the peer and watching the orange sun go down.
His thoughts take him back to his tenth year with his Father. Quiet on a Saturday morning on the river bank. Fishing lines in the rushing river and everything right in his world. He never actually had time to do that with his own sons when they were growing up, but that was always the goal.
Sadly, his health is failing now from lack of sleep and overwork. The luster in his eyes has faded to a dullness, even void now of desperation. This ill health threatens that coveted future. Will the empire he built be left for someone else to enjoy? All he ever wanted was to be free from the burdens. Free from the responsibilities. All he ever wanted was to be that little boy again, feeling the sunshine on his face. Perhaps his time would have been better spent working less and playing more. Like a child.
Children aren’t concerned if they embarrass you. The thought never crosses their mind. They are politically, socially, and spiritually incorrect. If the shoe fits, they think you should wear it.
And children take it one step further. They are not afraid of public displays of retardation. That is to say, they aren’t afraid of looking ridiculous in public. If their giggles and human airplane movements don’t impress you, oh well. They aren’t even thinking about it. If their shirts don’t’ match their shoes, oh well.
And oh, wouldn’t you just love the FREEDOM of not worrying for one minute what another person thinks!? Wouldn’t you love to carry in your spirit the innocence of a child?
Add to all of this the character flaws that children do not possess. They are quick to forgive, honest to a fault, lovey dovey, they always get enough sleep napping when necessary, they speak their minds at all times, there is no game playing or complicated scheming, they are who they are (what you see is what you get). How hard we work to implement these attributes that are second nature to a child!
Isn’t it great to discover that all of our deepest longings lead us back to our childhood?
I think that there is something to this. I don’t’ think it is accidental or random. I think it is by design.
Didn’t Jesus Himself say, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Perhaps our single greatest goal in life (and this is life’s greatest mystery) should be to pursue the innocence of children. Children put:Play over exercise, Friendship over self protection, Homes over houses, What they love to do, over what they ought to do, Family over work, Tranquility over things, Real over correctness, Freedom over fear, Love over hate, Truth over lies, Kindness over scheming, Open arms over closed hearts.
Doesn’t the circle of life itself symbolize this concept with a strong pull back to where our innocence began?
When a child is born and very young, he has wrinkly skin, his eyesight is dim, he needs others to take care of him, (changing soiled diapers and washing him), he throws tantrums, & he loves the sight of a flower in the garden.
When a man ages, he has wrinkly skin, his eyesight is dim, he needs others to take care of him, (changing soiled diapers and washing him), he throws tantrums, & he loves the sight of a flower in the garden.
And finally, he goes back to God from whence he came.