Many of us remember the story of Peter Pan and especially the movie as well as the live production aired on television a few years ago. One of the many songs Peter sings is one with the lyrics “I won’t group up”. Peter and his band of boys have many adventures, but never do they want to grow up, go to school, or be forced to do anything adults feel they should do including take responsibility.
J.M. Barrie’s story is a delightful excursion into battles with Indians, pirates, a princess, and of course the sparkling Tinkerbelle. It’s perfect for every child or child-at-heart’s imagination, but I wonder if we recognize when we also struggle with growing up.
I think I grew up being somewhat of an “old soul” whose home life was more focused on chores and responsibilities than playing games and living in a fantasy land of pirates and fairies. It probably took me into adulthood until I realized the fun and freedom of being playful. My grandchildren helped me a great deal in this area, but I still am not as free as they are.
Consequently, when I saw in the gospels that we are to become like children in our faith in Jesus, it was harder to identify what that would look like. Over time, I grew in my understanding. As I sat alone with Him in my quiet times with journal and pen in hand, He would sometimes seem to speak to me about what it might look like.
In the autumn quite a few years ago as I was journaling with the Lord about this, I sensed Him letting me know that even though I was growing in my understanding of being a child in Him I sometimes made Him into “a serious Papa” and that I needed to see Him smiling, eyes twinkling, and delighting as He did with children as He walked the earth. As a child, I would trust Him without doubting or questioning if He would be there for me.
He gave me a sense of the absolute trust a child has when a loving dad invites his child to jump into his arms. The child doesn’t question whether the dad will be there. The child believes the loving, caring, and strong daddy will always make the catch and jumps without doubting.
He seemed to give me permission to know that enjoying Him in that way did not diminish my reverence of Him if I trusted Him as such a child would do. Very clearly, my journal that day sensed these words from His heart to mine, “You’re allowed to laugh with me, dance with me, crawl into my lap and hide in the folds of garments, but you will need to learn to risk more and be more of a child with me.”
I knew He was not suggesting I be childish or irresponsible. There were battles to fight, but not with imaginary Indians and pirates. There was the need to serve selflessly rather than with self as focus as is often true of us as children.
So what would it mean to grow up while yet being a child? The best description came from C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. Let me share it with you.
“Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only as ‘harmless as doves’, but also as ‘wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.”