Why childhood is the key to heaven. How to grow younger by recapturing wonder, joy, and trust. Remember what it's like to be a child again.
"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 18:3-4, ESV
Really, Jesus? You mean, insist on your own way, throw temper tantrums, punch your sibling in the face, and play all day? That's how you get to heaven? What in the world does Jesus mean? I have three kids under 10, so I have a daily front row seat to these childhood shenanigans. What is it about children that Jesus is elevating here?
"Turn around," He says. As in, stop moving in the direction you are going and travel in the opposite direction. Stop traveling the path of fear, anxiety, brokenness, shame, and pressure and retrace the steps of childhood filled with wonder, joy and trust. Remember what it was like to be a child.
Not just any child. One specific child...YOU.
Who were you before the world broke you?
What were you like as a child? What did you dream of? How did God's fingers uniquely craft you? What memories do you have from childhood that were filled with pure joy? What did you do with such freedom and abandon that it's almost embarrassing to think about? Aren't you a little bit envious of that kid? The good news is, you can become that child again.
To become like children, we must recapture wonder, joy, and trust.
As adults, we are often too busy and preoccupied to take time to wonder. It's a lost art, a leisurely activity, or a flat-out waste of time. What is the value of wonder?
Wonder is the motivation behind the million questions of a child. They are captivated by the world around them and curious about how every facet of it works. (The following are real questions from real kids - source: https://www.humorthatworks.com/database/25-funniest-questions-from-kids/)
"Why doesn't the sun burn us up?"
“Why do I have two eyes if I only see one thing?”
“What is the name of the space between the bits that stick out on a comb?”
“Where do thoughts come from?”
And last but not least...drumrolll please...“Why do we have to be born young and grow old, why can’t we be born old and get young?” (Okay, Benjamin Button, you outdid us on this one ;)
Wonder motivates our passions. It reminds us why life is worth living. It sparks the fire of our calling and wakes us up in the morning curious about what the new day will bring.
What have you traded wonder for in your life?
When you smile as big as you can at a baby, chances are, they will smile back. They can't help it. Joy is their default emotion. Sure, they cry when they are hungry, tired, hurt, or need to be changed, but they always return to joy. One of the ways joy is on display in a child is when they play.
Play is joy's playground. Think about how much of a child's life is dominated by play. My four-year-old-daughter, Lila, loves to get lost in Barbie dreamland. She will play for hours making up conversations and interactions between the dolls. One moment she will squeal with excitement as they play together, and the next moment, she will laugh her head off when one of them tells a joke. If you stop and think of it, it's amazing how much of a child's life is filled with joy and play. Fun is a necessity. It's not about productivity, it's about enjoyment.
As we get older, joy is replaced by fear. Oftentimes, instead of anticipating what's ahead or enjoying the moment we are in, we are consumed by what will ruin it. We imagine the worst-case scenario.
Play is such a powerful expression of joy because there's an abandon to it. In order to let ourselves go enough to have fun, we have to abandon worry, shame, and the fear of what others think of us.
How can you re-introduce play into your life?
This is the heart of what Jesus was getting at. Talk to a child about God and see how they feel about him. As I was writing this, my daughter, Lila, came up and asked me what I was writing about. I told her and she laughed and said, "That's fun daddy! I love God." Then, while she was playing with Play Doh, she made up a song about how much she loves God and loves being his daughter. I kid you not, I'm not making this up!
Children have an innocence and trust in God that is utterly refreshing. They have no reason not to trust him. They are secure in his love and understand him in childlike ways that we simply forget as adults. Life has a way of breaking our trust in God in a thousand different ways.
There are very real challenges we face throughout life that break our trust in God. Trauma, hurt, addiction, assault, COVID-19, and brokenness that we experience scar our perspective toward him. The architect of that brokenness, Satan, takes aim at your trust in God. He did it to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1-3, and he does it to us every day. "Did God really tell you not to do that? Can you really trust what he says?"
What happened to you that broke your trust in God?
The ultimate purpose of turning around and becoming like a child again is to restore our childlike trust in God. Even though our trust in him is scarred, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be scarred to death for us in order to restore our trust in God. Value is determined by what we are willing to sacrifice, and God was willing to sacrifice his Son for you and for me. That's how much he values us. A God who loves like that is worthy to be trusted.
Growing younger means remembering what it's like to be a child again by living a life of wonder, joy, and trust.
Spend a couple minutes listening to this song and reflecting on these questions. If you like to write, journal your thoughts on paper...
What did God look like in your younger eyes? How can you recapture this picture of Him?
Where did your wonder go? When you let yourself, what do you daydream about?
Respond to this statement, "Getting hurt is really how redemption works." What hurts do you need God to heal in your life?