I’m twenty-two. An adult. Sometimes I don’t feel like it.
When I was little, I’d say, “When I grow up…” and I meant when I reached about the age I am now.
There’s a certain dry humor in that.
I’ve always wanted to be grown up. Mature. Respected.
But I’ve come to realize that however old I get (and I hope to get quite old before I leave this world), I don’t want to forget what it’s like to be a child.
- How to throw myself into a physical game, playing hard until I’m hot, sweaty, exhausted, and perfectly happy.
- How to transform brooms into horses and baby strollers into automobiles.
- How hard and tedious it is to learn to read.
- The drudgery of practicing an instrument before you’ve begun to master it.
- The childish, but very real joy of saying or doing something particularly “grown up.”
- How it feels to want to say something but have no grown-ups interested.
- How it feels to not understand why your parents are arguing: you just hate the tension. Or worse, the subtler, but even more unnerving tension of an old grudge in the extended family.
- How it feels to meet one of your mom’s old friends, and hear them say to her, “Oh, my goodness. Are these your kids? I haven’t met the youngest, but I remember this one when she was in diapers.”
- The painful self-consciousness when you overhear your parents tell an embarrassing story about you before you’re old enough to laugh at it.
- How it feels to compete with siblings for adults’ attention.
- The joy of making a perfectly useless gift of questionable artistry for your parents or friends.
- The scathing injustice of getting an equal punishment as your sister when you know she was more guilty than you. 😉
- The importance of adults’ approval.
- The way it felt like forever until you’d get older.
- The small delights of ice cream, swinging at the park, hide-and-seek, and new school books.
- The scheming to get more time to play with friends.
- The begging of “the dads” or “the moms” to play with us kids instead of just talking.
- The indignation when an adult won’t listen to your side of the story.
- The wonderful feeling of your first successful bike ride without training wheels.
- The frustration when your parents are lecturing and you know they’re right.
- The uncertainty when you get older and you’re hovering somewhere between the worlds of children and adults.
- The stupid rivalries between kids and how they somehow matter then.
- How it feels to admire a teen or twenty-something and have them treat you as a cute kid, a twerp, or a nuisance.
- How it feels to have a “big kid” or teen pay genuine attention to you.
I had a good childhood. And I don’t want to forget the good things. Or the bad things.
I want to keep part of my heart in childhood as long as I live.
(Side note to any teens or twenty-somethings reading this: Let me encourage you to engage kids. Listen to them. Treat them like equals sometimes [unless, of course, they’re acting up and you need to straighten them out]. Wear yourself out playing with them. Give piggy-back rides. Let them make an idiot of you once in a while. Be the cool teen, the cool young adult you would have wanted to play with when you were small. It’s fun.)
Now, as a Christian, I do not want to always be a child.
A Christian who never grows more like Christ. Never matures in knowledge. Never learns to display Christ in everything I do.
No, I want to be a Christian who matures.
I’ll never be a truly grown up Christian until I die. But I always want to be a Christian who is growing up.
Interestingly, the path to mature Christianity is counter-intuitive.
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
-Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV) emphasis mine
Notice He says little child. I’ve known older children to develop a bit of pride. Don’t ask where I discovered that. 😉
But we must come to God as children.
With all a child’s awe at God’s power and grace. With all a child’s undiluted love for a good parent. With all a child’s unquestioning trust in a trustworthy caretaker. With all a child’s sorrow when struck with a true understanding of wrongdoing.
With all a child’s joy in the life given to them.
It doesn’t pay to be a grown-up too soon. Maybe when it comes to serving Jesus, it doesn’t pay to be a grown-up at all.