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Reclaiming our childlikeness

September 06, 2021

When was the last time you splashed in a puddle? How about the last time you danced in the grocery aisle when your favorite song came on? When was the last time you laughed to the point of tears at something ridiculously silly? 

If you’re scratching your head to answer these questions, you might be too “adultish.” I know what you’re thinking: “Ben, you’re just making words up now.” Yes, I am. But hang with me. Adultish is a term I’ve found that refers to our addiction to being in control of every little thing and outcome in our life. 

If Peter Pan reminds us that all children except one grow up, why is that growing up process relegated to a journey of losing our sense of childlikeness? Keep in mind that I’m advocating for childlikeness, not childishness. Childlikeness is the ability to get lost in the wonder and beauty of the world. It means to be fully present in a given moment. And it means to live life in ways that lead us to wonder and curiosity. 

In her book, “Unfettered,” author Mandy Smith says children can teach us a lot because they do two things well that adults struggle with. First, they live life fully and with all of their senses. A child trusts their body and they are fully and physically present in any given moment. Secondly, a child can live this way and be fine with not needing to be fully responsible for every situation. A child knows how to live depending on someone to take care of them.

Too often we adults spend our days being too serious and feeling too important. But the truth is that deep down we’re secretly worrying about what others think of us, feeling insecure, and wondering if our next failure will be our worst. What would it be like to wake up every day and not wonder about what’s on our to-do list or worry about the things we need to accomplish and oversee? What if, instead of assuming we are in control of every little thing in life, we remind ourselves that the world is humming while we are asleep and our job is to join in the humming. If God is truly in control, we can afford to take our hands off the steering wheel a little and relish in the wonder and beauty of life. 

The other day a summer downpour happened while I was driving my kids home from school. We park in a parking garage directly behind our home (our house in on the top floor of my church in downtown Savannah). This means we had to make a choice — stay in the garage until the rain stopped or run across the street and get soaked. We stood there and waited. I had another Zoom meeting that afternoon. I was too busy and serious to get my clothes all wet. After a few minutes of waiting to no avail, my kids begged to just go for it. Against my adultish judgment, we went for it. We held hands and ran across the road to our building. I knew halfway through that my clothes were drenched and I would need to change to finish my work day. But that thought was interrupted by a sound — a great and glorious sound that chimed in my soul. As we ran across the rain-soaked street I heard my kids cackling with a laughter that had to have come from a wellspring of childlike joy. And I knew in that moment that Robert Frost was right about two roads diverging in the woods — in my case they were the roads of adultishness and childlikeness. I chose childlikeness even though it was the one less travelled. And, by the power of God, it made all the difference in that moment. 

So take yourself a little less seriously. Put your work down for a minute. Dance when good music comes on. Put your phone away and be fully present. Don’t be afraid of getting drenched in the rain. Be like a child. Have fun. God loves you. 

The Rev. Ben Gosden is senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at ben@trinity1848.org.

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