I suppose there are times when everyone longs to recapture the carefree innocence and joy of childhood. We wish that for just one day we could shake off the burdensome responsibilities of adult life and put our feet under Dad’s table once more. Admittedly, this emotion carries with it an element of escapism, but it is not necessarily all bad.
There are, of course, some characteristics of childhood that we should outgrow and leave behind forever. Such childish traits as impatience and a total self-centeredness have no place in adult life. But there are certain basic elements of childhood that we should never put away. We should hold onto them forever; and if, perchance, we have lost them, we should make every effort to go back and pick them up again.
One of these is openness. Every little child has the windows of his life open to the morning. Look at the curiosity in their faces; listen to the thousand and one questions as excitedly they seek to uncover the mysteries of their world. This is one of the beautiful things of childhood and should be retained as a permanent part of life.
The closed heart and the closed mind are inventions of the adult world and have no place in the kingdom of God. It is not without reason that those first followers of Jesus were called disciples. The word means student or learner. To become a follower of Jesus is to enroll in a school from which you will never graduate. There is always more, something new to be learned, some new grace to be experienced.
We have a proverb that says, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It seems to me that that proverb is a convenient cop-out for mentally and spiritually lazy adults. Those of us who may fall in the category of old dogs should be constantly learning new tricks. There is so much that we have never learned.
Another characteristic of childhood worth keeping is love. A normal child seems ever ready to love and be loved. They show little or no capacity for holding a grudge. Moreover, a child has not had time to develop a sense of prejudices. He simply accepts persons as persons, and is willing and eager to share with them the glorious adventures of life.
It is those of us who have reached adulthood who have cluttered up life with resentments and grudges and hatreds. What a tragedy that is, when we were born with the capacity for love. We need to get it back. We can ask God to give us, once again, the ability to love openly and freely.
So in the matter of such things as openness and love, our daily prayer should be, “Lord, make me a child again.”