The past several weekends, my husband and I have enjoyed a rare phenomenon in our lives – an empty house. With no ball games to attend or social functions for the kids, we’ve enjoyed some unexpected relaxation. It’s the first timein years that we’ve wandered through the yard just to take in its beauty, relax with a book, or (shhhh) take a nap! As we remarked about our new-found time, I couldn’t help but remember this once busy backyard filled with the sound of squealing children; days where barefoot dancing and unfiltered imagination were abundant. In Matthew 18, we hear Jesus remind us about having a childlike faith. For a moment, I close my eyes and imagine what that looks like.
I imagine the serenity of a sleeping newborn filled with trust as it settles down to the smell and feel of their parent or the big smile that appears when their awakened eyes finally come into focus with them. The complete abandonment the child shows reminds me of the absolute abandonment God asks of us in response to His depth of love for us. When my daughter was about three years old, I caught her speaking softly as we drove in the car. When I asked her who she was talking to she said “the angels”. My response was what you might imagine – “Oh, ok honey, that’s nice. Say hi for me!” The truth is, I believe that as children we are all born with this innocent trust, this profound humility. After all, weren’t they the first gifts given to Adam and Eve?
There is magic in watching that kind of abandonment in a child. The glee in jumping on the bed, pouncing in a puddle, and dancing in the rain. A place where curiosity exceeds fear and exploring leads to answers. The innocence of childhood is unhindered, authentic. This innocence is still of the heavenly realm. But, to live in the earthly realm, we are introduced to its earthly ways. The battle of love and hate begin and they wage war over every soul. As parents, we do everything in our power to protect this innocence and mourn the day evil disrupts it in the form of distrust, hatred, prejudice, etc.
As individuals, we may not remember the day or time our own innocence was lost. For many of us, it’s a slow fade. Those little moments when our confidence is shattered by an unkind word, or we are laughed at when sharing something from our heart. It leaves our world of trust and safety a bit bruised and our inner walls of protection develop. One day we realize we’re seeking God instead of conversing with Him. We lose that sense of abandonment and we begin our life’s journey in search for it once again.
This deep-rooted desire for meaning and purpose we often look for, leaves us with a void throughout our life. We are all called to seek God to fill that void with His love, but for some, that void is filled with earthly possessions, and sadly for others, its filled with drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. Years ago, I remember reading in a book called To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, that the soul is timeless and comes to earth in order to learn something new or otherwise attain spiritual growth. With that understanding, it would seem that we could never recapture the innocence of childhood because we are brought here to learn more – to be more. Is it, perhaps, in the learning that we slip away from our connection with the Divine?
To stop and see the world through the eyes of a child is to recapture the sense of awe in the ordinary. The delight in seeing their fascination with the color of a bug, or the exhilaration of chasing a firefly. There is such happiness in their freedom to simply stop and spin around with joy. Who wouldn’t want to recapture that?! It’s the difference between finding happiness and seeking joy. Joy is the happiness that only God can instill in one’s soul; a trusted sense of wisdom – of knowing. Something that assures us that although this moment is fleeting, God’s love isn’t. Happiness is based on what’s happening around us where joy is based on what’s happening within us.
So although we may not be able to recapture childhood innocence, we can recapture, with the grace of God, the joy He intended with the right attitude for the experiences of our lives
Happiness is smiling when the sun is out. Joy is dancing in the downpour.