We have three children at various stages of development. There is the 17-year-old about to venture into the great unknown of the rest of her life. There is the 13-year-old trying to identify who she is and what is truly important to her. And there is the 8-year-old who lives mostly in the present and, though not oblivious to the pains of the world, can experience joy at the drop of a hat.
Which one of these three stages of development corresponds the best with where a Grown Up Christian is supposed to be in their spiritual life?
Paradoxically, I would say the 8-year-old stage of development most closely resembles where a Christian is supposed to be in their relation to God. Jesus even said as much in the gospels:
“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
What does he mean by this?
First, we must look at what is commonly meant by growing up. Dallas Willard had this to say about this normal human processes. “‘Growing up’ is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit behind our face, eyes, and language so that we can evade and manage others to achieve what we want and avoid what we fear.” In other words, our spirit (the non-physical side of us) is not connected to our bodies. We hide so much of ourselves in order to be normal and not draw too much attention.
But this isn’t the goal of Growing Up into spiritual maturity, at least according to Jesus. Receiving the Kingdom of God as a child means that our body is genuinely present (not hiding behind false pretension) and our spirit is connected not to ourselves but to God.
James Bryan Smith says, “Children do not need to be in control. They have very little authority or power, and live each day in dependence and trust, receiving everything as a gift.”
A mature Christian then is a person of submission to God to the point where nothing about themselves really matters other than living in the reality of God’s presence, his care for them, and the life transforming power of his work in their lives. That is enough.
That is the Grown Up Child.
phot credit: farrago510