The apostle Paul talked about putting away 'childish things' when he grew up and became a man (1 Corinthians 13:11). But there is a big difference between being 'childish' and 'childlike'. He definitely wasn't taking about not having fun, losing a sense of adventure or of becoming boringly serious! In fact, Jesus said that unless we become like a child we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-3). Yes, we are to grow in maturity but we are also to maintain a childlike approach to life.
Think about some of the positive qualities of children that we want to hang on to even as we grow older:
- Joy and Wonder – kids have an amazing sense of fun, adventure and excitement. As we grow older, we can easily lose this and become increasingly negative and cynical about life.
- Receptive and Open – kids are teachable and eager to learn. As we grow older, we can become less teachable and more resistant to change.
- Emotionally Honest –kids express their feelings fairly quickly and unselfconsciously. As we grow older we can tend to freeze up more and hold in our real feelings.
- Simple Trust – kids' natural tendency is to trust others without analysing and questioning everything. As we grow older we can tend to develop a fair amount of (inappropriate) suspicion and fear.
- An Adventurous Spirit – kids love action-orientated activities, even if they are dangerous at times. As we grow older we can tend to play it safe more and choose to avoid risk (staying in our comfort zones).
- Freedom to be themselves – kids are very real with few inhibitions. As we grow older we can tend to wear masks and play the game of what we think others want us to be.
We all need to regain some of our childlikeness! After all, the world doesn’t need more negative, cynical, closed off, fake, suspicious and risk-averse people who take life too seriously!
Two final stories: As a kid I loved to sit and read through the encyclopaedias on the bookshelves at the house of some friends who my parents visited regularly. No wonder my #1 strength is Learner! I love new ideas. In primary school, I also started writing a book about the travel adventures of my friend Steve and I going around the world. Who would have known that I would grow up to love travel (travelling to over 30 countries) and writing.
Maybe its time for all of us to become a little more childlike ... again. Don't become a prisoner to the expectations of the people around you. Let your childhood passions help navigate you on your work and life journey.
Our earliest instincts are a big part of who we are and therefore signposts for our future dreams. As you consider your life ahead, go back to that foundation. Do some archaeological digging. You might just find some keys to a life of greater meaning and contribution. Maybe it's time for another adventure?