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, threatening all kinds of bad things 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
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Sunday, August 5, 2012
I Gave Up Childish Ways
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My experience has been the exact opposite of yours. When I was a child, I guess I trusted in the basic goodness of the universe. Today, I make a conscious effort to keep my heart open. Sometimes, it's as easy as it was when I was a little girl. Other times, I have to remind myself.ReplyDelete
When I was 18, I moved into my first apartment and started paying bills. I distinctly remember a phone call from the telephone company. The lady told me that my bill needed to be paid by Thursday. I thought, "How sweet! She called me to remind me!" I apologized and explained to the nice lady that I wasn't getting paid until the following Friday. She told me that if I didn't pay it by Thursday, they were going to shut my phone off. I said, "If you do that, I won't have a phone!" That was the moment I felt the weight of adulthood.
Kim, That is a terrific story. I laughed out loud. What a wake up call to adulthood that was! Thanks for commenting.Delete
Thank you for sharing childish ways, reminds us of being children once upon a time. As you grow up the responsibility seems to increase.ReplyDelete
I have a true story up for and would like your thoughts & words once you've read. Thank you again for sharing.
I will come take a look. Thanks for your comment.Delete
I guess it feels to me like things are more under my control as an adult. As a child I didn't have many worries or fears, but neither did I have many choices I could make. My family was loving and protected me from most of what was evil.ReplyDelete
Now, the dangerous and flawed world is so much more obvious. But, I have a much better chance of controlling my reaction to it. I actually feel less afraid as an adult.
Bob, Well, I guess I would say that I myself am certainly under better control, maybe because I'm not spending all my energy trying to control what is beyond my control. Thanks for your comment.Delete
For me, putting away childish things has meant giving up all the defenses I had to protect myself as a child. Being present is a grownup thing for me.ReplyDelete
Linda, I like that, giving up defenses and being present. So true. Thanks for your comment.Delete
I am still struggling with childish ways. The sign that I see saying " please forgive me...God is not done with me yett" applies to me. The difference now is that I take responsibility for my failures. Maybe that is being grown up. Who knows.ReplyDelete
Barbara, I hear you! Me, too! Thanks for commenting.Delete
Childhood ways... I had to give this one a few seconds of thought. To me childhood ways include; a pure heart, one which is honest and trusts, believes and has faith in things they can only feel and not see, and one which laughs until tears roll down their cheeks... to name a few that popped into my mind.ReplyDelete
Yup, I've reverted to childhood ways in some areas of my life, but I'm also adult enough to take responsibility for my personal safety and well being. The older I get the more I realize just how little I know, but at least I'm open minded enough to still learn. :-)
Have a wonderful week Galen and thanks for this fantastic message!
darlin, I know what you mean about knowing less as I get older. I wrote once about Oprah's column in her magazine about "what I know for sure." Every month she knows at least one thing for sure. Wow. Every month I realize that I don't know something that I thought I knew! Thanks for your kind words and your comment.Delete
I spent much of my childhood angry and fearful, due to circumstance I now realize were not in my control. I didn't become childish until my 20's,childlike occurred closer to 50. I now laugh easier, love easier, change easier. I like the way Linda Myers put it,"Being present is a grownup thing for me." that expresses it beautifully.ReplyDelete
jan, I love your chronology--childish in your 20s, childlike at 50. Well said! And I agree with you that Linda captured something beautiful in her comment. Thank you for commenting.Delete
Childhood was a scary time for me as well Galen because of uncertainty in my life and fear of my parents (more to come on this on my blog:)ReplyDelete
I felt I had very little control about what happened to me. Adulthood helped me realize I can be a bit more assertive with life (but not overly so). And that I can make choices which I didn't have as a child. In that way, adulthood has been more stable, safer and filled with more certainty.
My parents moved when I was close to finishing high school. I spent the last year with family friends and that was the clear distinction for me between childhood and adulthood.
Vishnu, My experience of adulthood has been much like yours, with the exception of certainty. For me, less and less becomes certain, but as Pema Chodron says, I am becoming comfortable with uncertainty. I look forward to hearing more of your story. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I think it is all about having that open heart and the willingness to see all things for the miracles they are that keeps us child-like and able to enter the Kingdom of God. Adulthood, with its responsibilities and concerns, can weigh us down if we let it. I believe that is why Jesus told us to bring every care and concern we have to Him.ReplyDelete
Beautiful post, Galen!
Martha, I love what you said about seeing all things for the miracles they are. You have captured "childlike" beautifully. Thanks for commenting.Delete
When did I cease feeling like a child? About three years ago, when I began to accept that the pains I wake up with are pretty much there to stay...ReplyDelete
CW, Chronic pain is a life changing experience. Sadly, some children live with it, too, and, like you, probably don't feel much like children. I read several blogs by people who live with chronic pain. We all have much to learn from each other. Thank you for your comment.Delete
When I was small, I’d hide in my closet during a thunderstorm. I was afraid of thunder. Its rumbling noise scared me. One day, mom came in and sat with me. She told me that thunder is harmless. She explained how driving rain can cause leaks in the roof,and strong winds can topple over the lawnchairs, and lightning can cause a fi re in thebackyard. “BUT,” she emphasized, “ rumbling thunder cannot harm you.” I gave up my childish ways when I decided it was time to face the truth about inner storms rumbling with NO. I've learned to listen to that good, protective voice deep within. It is telling me that rumbling self talk cannot harm me.
rob, What a wise and loving story about your mom. I loved reading it. I have always loved thunder, and I miss the thunderstorms of the South up here in the Pacific Northwest. But my daughter was terrified by it. (She called it "fumber.") I wish I had had the presence of mind your mom did! Thanks for commenting.Delete
Childhoods are different. You had adult worries even then, I might even say adult anxiety, rather than child's anxiety. What you felt was not innate but taught. I am so glad to know you know, happy and in love with life!ReplyDelete
It is time to relive the childhood! Enjoy life!
Jodi, Yes, enjoying life is very childlike. As my nephew says, like is good. Indeed. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Wonderful post Galen!ReplyDelete
I think I got over my childish ways when I saw my mom being hospitalized and had to undergo a major surgery. I must have been 12 years that time I think. But just the fact that I had to look after my little sister and manage the both of us alone (as my Dad was out of station), made me grow up overnight. And I did manage things well, which I think anyone in a similar situation would.
However, I wonder if kids nowadays can manage and do as much as we did when we were kids. :)
Thanks for sharing. :)
Harleena, I think the answer is that yes, kids can manage when they have to. It seems that some kids never have responsibility and have extended "childhoods." Others have to grow up way too soon and miss the carefree time of children. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Beautiful words, Galen. I was treated like a grown-up at home long before I became one. And I took on the responsibilities I was expected to, quite happily, because it was expected of me. Those who expected loved me - and so no questions asked. This just became a habit. I grew up, really. And I would always hear my Mom say that working with children lets you be one of them, yet have the privilege of guiding them. She was strong, yet childlike. Today, I feel the same pleasure when I am with children, because I enjoy how they keep me on my mental toes. The balance would therefore be to be mature, yet keep an open mind to the wonders of life.ReplyDelete
My Mom would have loved reading this post. :-)
Vidya, How honored I am to have written anything your mother would have loved to read! I love how you describe the balance between maturity and an open mind. Lovely. Thanks for your comment.Delete
My first 10 years were childhood bliss. Then reality and harshness hit and I had to become the caretaker. I have been a caretaker ever since and find childhood to be hard, even for my own kids. My son's miss the old days when they had no fears or worries...they are 8 and 10!!!! I miss the child in me, I remember creating magical places out in the woods and pretending to be a mermaid or princess.ReplyDelete
katy, Your sons have been through a lot, which means as the mom you definitely had to be a mature adult. I hope that you find that child in you again. Thanks for commenting.Delete
My fear of giving up my childish ways would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater - endless curiosity, not knowing that something is impossible to do, laughing at the silliest of things, being my own person etc.ReplyDelete
Riley, What you are describing as childish ways, I might describe as childlike. Those qualities are pure and shining, and I don't think that is what the Bible suggests we should give up. On the contrary, I think that's what Jesus meant when he said we have to be like a child to get into heaven. Thanks for your comment.Delete
This is an interesting koan! I like the answer you found for yourself. I also suspect that it relates to a simplicity of being open of heart and in the moment with a big dash of faith and the ability to see the world as it is. Thank you!
Sandra, Perfectly said. Thank you.Delete
Galen...A thought provoking post. For me, it's maintaining a sense of being like a child....open and playful, combined with the experience and maturity of being an adult.ReplyDelete
I think that faith is critical when dealing with fear. It gets us through the scary and tough times. As a friend of mine always says: "The earth will provide". Fran
Fran, I see a thread through the comments, including yours, of connecting childlike to being open. I like that. There is a faith, just as you say, in being open, a trust that the universe is a friendly place, a trust that the earth will provide. Thank you for your comment.Delete
By making the choice to receive Christ and His teachings we are also making the decision to "put away childish things" and "surrender all." Humbling ourselves before our Maker with an open heart and a willing spirit releases us from our burdens and enables us to feel childlike. I think of it as prayer and thanksgiving and I need to go to that place a lot more often than I do.ReplyDelete
Suzanne, What a lovely way to connect being childlike to humble gratitude. Thank you for commenting.Delete
"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"ReplyDelete
I think that's about it ;)
I was born curious and I will die curious ... maturity is an ongoing quest... hahaa... don't like growing up and being an adult with all that 'have to' stuff... boo hiss
Carolyn, You are a free spirit! I learned a while back to shift "I have to..." to "I get to..." Very different! Thanks for commenting.Delete
Once again a very thoughtful, insightful and beautiful post. I actually don't know if we ever totally mature. At least it is an ongoing process. However, I loved your thoughts on being childlike and and I am sure that is what the scripture means. Having an open heart and a wonder at those things you see and feel and know. I am sure the children accepted the Savior without a second thought.ReplyDelete
I for one which I could go back and capture the moments of feeling free as a child. I too had to grow up to fast.
Blessings to you for this one!
LeAnn, Yes, maturity is an ongoing process, at least for me! Thanks for your comment.Delete
I believe we can be mature and yet see the wonders in the world in a childlike way. We know what we must do and do what we have to, but at the same time, we can appreciate things in a way a child never could.
I always enjoy watching children because they have that innocence and not a care in the world. It is something adults should protect. Since I've been a child before myself, it is not too difficult to step back and put myself in a child's shoes to see the wonder around them.
Yet at the same time, a child would not have the room to fully experience their childhood unless adults did what they could to nurture and protect them until they are ready for the world. Not only must adults create the conditions, they must also see the world through childlike eyes so that they can bond with their children.
So yeah you're right. We must find balance between taking responsibility and maintaining an open heart. It is not easy, but it can be done.
Thank you for sharing this lovely article!
Irving the Vizier
Irving, I appreciate your description of the respective "roles" of children and adults. And remembering what we were like as children. Sometimes with my own kids, I have to remind myself that they view the world through child eyes (or now young adult eyes), and not through senior eyes like mine. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Love this one Galen and thank you for sharing your story. I gave up my childlish ways after having children. Then I found them again when I realized to have laughter, being able to be silly and not care what someone might say or think was fun. It helped me to enjoy my children more when I wasn't always serious.ReplyDelete
When God says we should be like a child to me this means enjoying the little things in life and trusting him when something happens or that is out of our control. when we are children we throw the worries to the wind, knowing our parents are going to handle them. God is like and earthly father was when we were children. Most of us could trust our earthly father and as an adult we have to learn to trust our heavenly father in the same matter.
Enjoy life, let our heavenly father guide us and if we get to much on our plate to handle he will help us carry that plate. Having faith makes us childlike.
debbie, Several commenters have made the connection between being childlike and faith. I love the way you described this. Thank you for your comment.Delete
" So how do we give up childish ways, and at the same time become like a child?" It is a "a Christian koan." - a paradox and I read once that if there is no paradox, there is no truth. (another koan?)Maybe some riddles aren't meant to be solved.
I like how you say "maturity did not coincide with adulthood" I wonder if it ever does. I can't say just when I crossed the line. Something to think about!
Lori, No truth without paradox? Hmmm, I'll have to ponder that koan! But I agree that some things can't be understood in a rational way. The mystery! Thanks for commenting.Delete
This was an interesting window into your childhood. We just had our big family reunion this past weekend, and that always has us reflecting & sharing "Remember when?" stories with one another. To my memory, my childhood was rather stressful and I had a lot of responsibilities that didn't allow much room for simply being carefree. It was still a happy childhood, but I don't recall ever NOT feeling a weight of expectations and responsibilities. Perhaps this is why I treasure people who make me laugh and help me step outside of that persona occasionally. It's never too late to capture that sense of childlike delight, after all. :)ReplyDelete
Dawn, So true--it is never too late. Reading all the comments here makes me wonder if very many of us really had the carefree childhoods that we think are typical! Childhood carries its own anxiety and fear that few of us escape, I'm thinking, even though it's mixed in with moments of childlike joy and innocence. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Great stuff here my friend Galen! I as a child was not a child either - keeping peace and being aware of when my own mother would pass out and faint....I can relate to your childhood. I don't think I was ever allowed to be a child -ReplyDelete
So now that I'm 52 - I dance like a child, I play like a child and of course my paying job is to sell playground equipment - yes to children...for my child within is happy, dancing and full of life and love...ready to explore, ready for adventure and ready to smile at everyone I see along my path of life.