How would we view the world around us, and our lives within it, if we truly and deeply knew that we are children of God? We are descendants of Adam, who was hand-crafted from dust by the Father. We are adopted into sonship through the blood of Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit we cry, “Abba, Father!” We are, before and after any and everything else, children. In terms of blood and biology, whether we rebel and reject our earthly parents, are disowned and rejected by them, or are orphaned, the reality is that we never stop being children. This is the first relationship we have on this earth and it is fundamental to who we are. Revealed in this worldly reality is the most important relationship of all, between the Father and his child. His fathering of us determines that, forever, every single one of us is a child of God.
The great tragedy is that many of us have forgotten our true identities. We have rejected the sonship on offer in Christ Jesus and, like the prodigal son, are desperately trying to escape the inescapable. To reject and turn away from our Creator is sin and breaks our Father’s heart. The inevitable consequence of sin is death. And so, as we renounce our own identities as God’s children, we age. This is not simply a physical phenomenon but occurs to the entire being. Our very souls grow old and weary.
G. K. Chesterton writes this:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
In turning away from our Father, intentionally or not, we have forgotten that we are his children. 'We have sinned and grown old.' We have lost the ‘appetite of infancy’ and replaced it with impatience, boredom and consumerism. We have confined to a few short years of ‘childhood’ what was intended to be an eternal spiritual state. Even as we are children, we are called to be childlike (but not childish – there is a difference). The child is excitable, abounding in energy, truly alive. The child is expectant and eagerly enjoys their Father. As God’s children, we come to him with boldness. We know that his love for us is unconditional and that all his gifts are good. We trust him to provide for us and meet our every need. We run to him for safety and his presence casts out all fear. This is a mere glimpse of our inheritance in the arms of our beloved Father.
What if we remembered how to be childlike? What if we began to believe with an audaciously expectant faith? This is what Jesus challenges and invites us to: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) So we must turn – return to our everlasting childhood. The adult has been worn down and worn out by the world, but the childlike heart retains its innocence. The child has an inexhaustible delight and is able to marvel even in monotony. Childlike faith prays prayers that an adult would never dare. Childlike faith dreams bigger dreams and hopes beyond reason. The child believes Jesus when he says, “Whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:16) Do you?
And so, the call is to grow down instead of up. Spiritual maturity is reached in a state of eternal infancy. As we return to the glory of our childhood, our entire perspective shifts. We see creation in the new light of play, joy and delight. If we let go of our adult desire for control and fear of that which we can’t, we find freedom to gleeful enjoy creation. What we artificially manufacture for our own children, the Lord has already provided for his. We make climbing frames, he makes trees. We make swimming pools, he made the sea. The whole of creation is, in fact, the best playground I have ever seen, declared ‘good’ by the Lord himself. Our Father made it for us. We may have forgotten, but the truth is that life is an adventure. God has made us a playground and we were made to play.
What if we stopped taking life and ourselves so seriously and returned to childlike simplicity? There is nothing quite like the untainted joy of a child. Yes, our bodies will grow old, but I implore you, brothers and sisters, never, ever grow up.