Do you remember how it felt to wake up to the first winter snow? How white it seems, that first snowfall. Hauntingly perfect. As a child, you probably couldn’t wait to get out there in it. To make the first snowman. To throw snow balls at your buddies. Or just to mess up that perfect white blanket covering the lawn.
What about the first time you saw the Redwood forest? Or the ocean? The first time you heard someone sing in such a way that it stirred something deep in your soul?
What about Christmas? Did you struggle to hold back the anticipation, the sheer excitement, of discovering what mom and dad would put under the tree? Every wrapped box, every stuffed bag, was a mystery waiting…SCREAMING, to be uncovered! Did you ever shake the box to try to figure out what was inside?
It was easy to feel this sense of wonder as a child, because everything was so new. As new as that first snowfall of the season. And lets face it, there was a time for most of us when we hadn’t yet experienced the deep wounds that would eventually leave us numb, or jaded, to the mysteries of life.
I am in utter awe of how my children marvel at the world around them. Every sunrise, every new snowflake, every new animal that passes on our property cause my 3-year-old twins to erupt in sweet exclamation. A simple trip in the car is an absolute adventure. And Christmas! Let me tell you how excited they are to dig out the ornaments and put them on the tree. What I often see as a choir, even a nuisance, my kids embrace with an enthusiasm that would put many of us to shame.
What happened? How did we lose our zeal for life? Where did the wonder of it all go?
Our wounds have crippled us. The hardness of life settles in and robs us of the wonder of being alive. We’ve grown cynical. Unbelieving. Or worse yet, bored.
Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to allow our eyes to be opened once more to the amazing world we live in. Our children might be our greatest teachers in this.
But how do we return to our child heart?
Let yourself be moved. We are a culture that has been entertained to death. But there is still room for story. A good story will peel back the layers of our heart and expose the marrow, if we will let it. This is where our old wounds are found, some of them buried so deep in hope they will never surface again. But they do surface. And it’s often when we watch a scene in a movie, or hear a familiar song, that something will strike the raw nerve of our subconscious, moving us to tears or to anger. Memories are like subtle fingerprints on glass. For this reason, we often close ourselves off to the heart, because some memories are painful. Let yourself be moved in such a way that your heart will open, even if there is stuff there that is raw and unnerved. Dealing with our wounds is the first step to recovering the wonder of our childhood, because it was often during our young year these wounds were afflicted.
And dont’ think that wasn’t intentional.
Make space for play. My kids have voracious imaginations. Their playtime is never orchestrated or manufactured, but flows like a river from their creativity. Imagination is a strong magic that connects us with our childhood heart, creating a world where anything is possible. Hope can be a catalyst for wonder, and hope has a very special relationship with imagination. When we can envision a world of possibility, the way we see our environment, our circumstances, even our shortcomings, changes. We are no longer held hostage by life, but rather captivated by it.
So I say find your creativity. Return to a life of play. Even if the neighbors stare.
Things don’t bring contentment. Somewhere along the path, as we made the journey from childhood to adulthood, we bought into a lie that accumulating things instead of experiences would make us happy. We go to school so we can find a good job, so that we can buy a house and fill it up with things. As we get older, we need to make more space to store the things we’ve accumulated along the way. Not all of us live this way, but many of us do. Our culture is built around consumption. We are taught at a very young age, through media commercialism and even parental expectations, that our purpose is all about making enough money to acquire the kind of life that will make us content. And so we chase wealth, we accumulate debt, only to find that true life cannot be bought at a store.
My children love their toys, but I’ve found that if they have too many they don’t play with any of them. So we’ve learned to limit what they have available to them by rotating their toys. It seems that excess leads to boredom. I think we can learn from that.
An attitude of gratitude. If we walk through life with a chip on our shoulder, or blaming others for our own discontent, then we’ll never experience the wonderment others seem to enjoy. But when we practice gratitude, we humble ourselves and condition our hearts to experience life in a completely different way. Humility leads to peace. We cannot find wonderment in life if we are living within a constant storm. Finding thanksgiving in even the toughest circumstances isn’t something that comes easy, but once we open ourselves to the practice of gratitude we learn that its our own attitudes that often get in the way of finding joy. And joy must be restored in order for us to resurrect our child heart.
Returning to a child heart isn’t just an ideological notion. Jesus knew this was the path we must take in order to experience the kingdom he had come to restore:
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15 (NIV)
Our hearts were made for the restored kingdom of God. And I can’t think of anything more extraordinary than that, my friends! But this wonder isn’t one that can be received through logic or wealth. It’s by returning to the heart of a child that we will find ourselves renewed. And that is perhaps the greatest gift of all.