Becoming Childlike 101

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Now is that time of year when I envy every student going back to class with pristine white notebooks, highlighter sets and a graphing calculator.

While my schools had some run-ins with serious issues (like drugs, vandalism and assault), I felt relatively safe and enjoyed going back to class.

But not everyone has had that kind of positive experience. Bullies. Drugs. Gangs. Competition. Problems at home. Anxiety about work. Anxiety over money. Pressure, pressure, pressure. These are very real concerns for children, teens and young adults today.

Childlike joy

So why a commentary about being childlike? Because it's time we were all reminded that it's okay to be a child.

Being a child does not mean avoiding responsibility. We are still accountable for our thoughts and actions, no matter our age. But being childlike does mean approaching life with a joyful attitude. "Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth… Banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body" (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 [9] Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes: but know you, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. [10] Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
American King James Version×
, New International Version).

Formative years

Childhood is a most precious time of life. It is during these formative years that our personalities become established and our habits for life develop. It's also when we become most vulnerable to social pressures. Children and teens who are exposed to traumatic situations, for example, are more likely to develop personality and anxiety disorders later in life.

Recently, with shock and pity, I watched a TV show about child pageanting. One young girl, age 10, chooses to be called by another name while performing. She then talks about herself in the third person, splitting her personas: "Madison would always play soccer. Tootie [her stage personality] would never play soccer." Such dissociative behavior is not healthy!

Disappearing childhood

In our fast-paced society, children are encouraged to grow up too fast. Every child matures at a different rate, of course, but on the whole, childhood is disappearing.

On the same program, one parent bemoans how much work she puts into her daughter's preparation for the pageant and how disappointed she personally would be if her daughter didn't win. No pressure, Mom!

The child's father, commenting on the costumes, hair and make-up, feels that as long as it's tasteful, he doesn't mind his daughter dressing up and performing. (Her swimsuit routine involves a breakaway skirt and a gyrating hips dance.) He would, however, draw the line at leather, chains and fishnet stockings. Good to know, Dad.

Their daughter is 4 years old.

Children of God

What's wrong with simply being a child? Absolutely nothing! In fact, our Christian walk is often referred to as becoming children of God—His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×

Jesus sternly rebuked His disciples when they tried to keep children away from Him. "Do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Mark 10:14-15 Mark 10:14-15 [14] But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said to them, Suffer the little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. [15] Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Why like a little child? Healthy children are humble, innocent, joyful, not devious, not prone to cruelty, not bitter and, most important, still open to receiving instruction from a parent. Notice the spiritual parallel as you read "Become Like Little Children."

My back-to-school days are behind me, but my lifelong learning is yet ahead. My current course is Becoming Childlike 101. VT

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