“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
There’s nothing quite like the beaming joy of a child. Uncomplicated, innocent unburdened by cynicism or fear. Too often we’re hobbled by the trappings of adulthood, because the process of becoming one involves what we laughably refer to as “maturity”: the battening down of expectations and attitudes caused by our exposure to experience.
It’s difficult to take the concept of worldly maturity entirely seriously, of course—there’s very little about life in the world that we would understand as “mature”. As plagued as it is by notions of the material, as much as it confuses pessimism for realism, cynicism for perception and negativity for truth, the world of our old self doesn’t sell itself very well as a sophisticated and seasoned environment to grow up in.
However: the worldly concept of Innocence versus Experience (as popularized by one of the greatest artists and poets who ever lived, William Blake) posits that childhood should be a state of protected grace, and that without that protection it falls victim to a fallen society around it. When the world itself touches on childhood—when innocence is corrupted by experience—there is a corresponding loss of vitality and an increase in the negativity of oppression and fear. It’s the open hand versus the closed fist, with the added emphasis that it’s the sordid business of living that curls the fingers of that open hand into a closed fist.
That, in a nutshell, is the way that the world views growing up: maturity is something to be sought after, yet it’s a poisoned chalice, born of corruption and moral decay. Childhood is precious and to be treasured and protected, yet it’s also something to be escaped, to be left behind. We shouldn’t encourage children to mature beyond their years, but rather urge them to appreciate their youth while they can—yet we constantly belittle them, condescend to them and patronize them, deny them agency.
We’re all children in the Kingdom, all newborn and learning. We never stop growing in the Spirit, because everything that the Spirit is working towards in us boils down to one simple objective: to make us more like Jesus. And one of the fundamental aspects to our experience with Him has to be a childlike view of exactly where we are in Him. We need to cultivate a feeling of blank, delirious astonishment at the fullness of Christ in us! We need the “wow” factor that only a child can properly express, that gleeful rejoicing in something so unspeakably cool that it makes us want to bounce up and down with excitement.
The world loves to place ideas and people in neat, nicely manageable boxes: and so we get youth and maturity, child and adult, innocence and experience. In the Kingdom, we’re not nearly so insecure that we feel the need to compartmentalize and rationalize life into convenient, bite-size chunks. It’s perfectly possible to be a grown-up, with responsibilities and dependents, and still retain a childlike sensibility—because the Holy Spirit knows the difference between ‘childlike’ and ‘childish’.
Once we feel freed to embrace our inner child, we’re free to embrace one of the most deeply enjoyable facets of this radiant life we lead in Christ. We can become entirely distracted from circumstances that would ordinarily subdue us, because we’re fully engaged in rejoicing. We completely miss the world’s attempts to intimidate us, because we’re happily absorbed in the person of Jesus. Nothing causes fear in us. We ignore any and all discouragement, because we’re focused on something more helpful, more interesting and just simply more fun.
How is it that the armour of our gladness can’t be chipped, bashed, broken or cracked? Jesus has already overcome. Whatever’s left has no power over us, and just washes straight over and past us like a summer breeze.
Given that attitude, that we can display boundless maturity in Christ and a gleeful state of grace in the Spirit, it’s not surprising that we’re the best advertisements for the Good News. How can we not be, when the rhythm of our lives is captivated by Jesus? In Him, we’ve reclaimed childhood for adults and rehabilitated maturity for the child in all of us. We’re walking commercials for the capacity of Christ to renew and restore the world.
Just as Christ overcame the sins of all mankind with the overwhelming goodness of God, so we overcome evil with good. We radiate it—and negativity cannot penetrate that clear sense of wonder we feel. That’s our environment now, a rarefied atmosphere of love, joy, faith and community in all three of those things. The toxic atmosphere of the world we used to live in is for the old person we used to be. We breathe cleaner, better air now, and a perennial, delighted astonishment is a way of life for us.
Smile along with us, as God allows, and even engineers, situations designed to establish further astonishment in our lives, to restore the childlike simplicity we need to move in His Kingdom. God’s fullness knows no bounds—that alone is an incredible confidence boost! There’s no fear in us, no insecurity. We’re given more love than we could ever need, and there’s more still to come as our capacity to feel and express love grows. It’s all going to end in laughter: the delighted chuckle of a child, amazed at how wonderful life can be.
For more resources about living life with a childlike sense of faith, be sure to check out the interactive journal Living in Dependency & Wonder at Brilliant Book House!