"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I gave up childish ways." -1 Corinthians 13:11
The minister spoke this morning about childhood and adulthood, about immaturity and maturity. Was there a time, she asked, when you knew you had left childhood behind? One person said it was when he was old enough to have to buy adult tickets at the movie. Another person said it was when she moved into her first apartment and paid her own bills. Several people said that having children was the awakening of adulthood.
I thought back. When did I ever feel like a child? When my mother had headaches and sometimes fainted, I had to run for the smelling salts and revive her. Once, when my dad was out of town, Mother and I thought we heard someone in the house. I got Dad’s shotgun and walked through the house, hoping that the unloaded gun would be enough to scare the intruder away, even though I was only ten years old.
I felt the weight of adult responsibility at those times, but I still thought and reasoned like a child, and I certainly behaved in childish ways. Indeed, looking back, it’s fair to say that maturity did not coincide with adulthood in my life. Maturity came much later and is still coming.
Maturity seems like a good thing. And yet Jesus said that “unless you change and become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So how do we give up childish ways, and at the same time become like a child? Hmm, a Christian koan.
Perhaps the answer is in the balance between taking responsibility for your life in a mature way, and maintaining an open heart, a heart full of wonder and joy and trust in the basic goodness of the universe. In that sense, I suppose I am more childlike now than when I really was a child.
As a child, I saw the world as a frightening place, with all kinds of threatening, bad things that would attack if I let down my guard. As I’ve gotten older, I see the beauty and the mystery that I overlooked in my childish anxiety. And I’ve come to believe in the perfection of, well, everything, even if I can’t understand it.
A child’s faith.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." –John 14:27