“When I was a child I thought like a child, when I became a man I put away childish things, including the need to be grown up.”-C.S. Lewis
A few months ago, I had a great opportunity to go with my 6 year old daughter to visit Razorback stadium in Fayetteville Arkansas. I’ve grown up watching every Razorback game on television, I’ve taught my kids the Arkansas fight song, I’ve dreamed about getting to walk on that field since I was a little boy, but I never considered what I would do once I got there.
As soon as we got there, I was awe-struck. So many memories came flooding back to me (many of them very, very sad because heck, we’re not Alabama) and then I noticed that my 6 year old daughter had taken to sprinting the field.
In the heat of a July day. She was running the entire field from endzone to endzone. And as soon as I saw her, I knew that was the very thing that I very much wanted to do, but I was too grown up to do it.
We were with some friends from college, and they had used their connections with some big-wigs at the U of A to make this happen, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of them.
Back when I was in college, I lead a spring break campaign to Fall River Massachusetts. One day, our van was running an errand and we realized that we were going to be coming close to the New England Coast, and all of my college friends started begging me to stop to see the ocean.
So we did, and I’ll never forget what happened next.
It was my friend Josh’s first time to ever see the ocean, and he jumped out of the van and ran into the ocean fully clothed,
On a cold, New England day Josh ran into the Atlantic like he was a 6 year old boy.
He never considered the consequences of being in wet jeans for the rest of the day, he just saw the ocean for the first time and he was too excited to think past that moment.
I still keep this picture on my computer it reminds me of two things.
1) Don’t be too grown up for my own good.
2) I still regret not getting in the ocean.
Growing Up Without Growing Old
Did you ever wonder why we do this? Why do we, as we grow older, become less and less willing to put ourselves out there?
I’m writing this the week of yet another reboot of the Peter Pan movie franchise. Yet another time we are telling the story of those boys who never grow up. Why do we keep making these movies? I think the answer is obvious…because we will watch them.
And to be sure, part of the reason we are so fascinated with Peter Pan and not growing up is because we are afraid of death, but a better, more pure reason is because we intuitively know that kids know how to live, or maybe it’s better to say they don’t know how to live just yet.
They haven’t learned all the ways that the world might hurt them, or how throwing yourself fully into anything leaves you open for ridicule, but the greatest thing they haven’t learned yet, is that just because something happens all the time doesn’t mean it isn’t a miracle.
For a child, every bird in the backyard is a wonder. Every star is a sign, and every sunrise is a marvel.
I’m starting to believe our children are right.
Have you seen this video before? It’s of an older man, who is seeing an escalator for the first time. And he’s struck with a mixture of fear and wonder. Others are just calmly walking past him and using the escalator out of second nature, but this man has wisdom that they know not.
He knows something in a way that those inoculated to the sight do not. He knows that it is no small thing to see moving steps that can transport you from one place to the other. He can see what they can no longer see, because they’ve seen it too many times and have grown blind.
I believe this is the great gift that children give to our world. They know what we have forgotten, a person sees something truly when they see it for the first time.
The Vulnerability of Wonder
I love the way that G.K. Chesterton talks about this in connection with our modern lack of wonder:
All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork….It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.
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 God has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
Did you catch that? God has the eternal appetite of infancy, for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we?
We have sinned because we learned somewhere early on that wonder, true awe and wonder, makes us vulnerable to any cynic, it exposes us to anyone who has learned to see through everything and yet see nothing.
We have sinned because we learned to use sarcasm and humor to cover over the fact that we’ve lost the ability to enjoy God’s good world the way a child can.
We have sinned because we sat in the car while our friend ran fully clothed into the ocean.
And while I may forever have a funny story of a friend doing a silly thing in the cold New England sea, but I will never know what it felt like to feel the water on my toes on that brisk spring day.
I was too grown up for my own good.
I’ve learned that life has a way of beating the wonder and joy out of us.
Over time, we begin to roll our eyes a bit more frequently, one day at a time we become a bit more skeptical and jaded, and we call it becoming wise, but what it really is, is us just becoming one more spectator.
So back to that day in Razorback stadium this summer…When I saw Eden sprinting across the field in 100+ degree weather, I knew what I was supposed to do as a dad, I should shout a warning about a possible heat stroke or tell her again how we had talked about being on her best behavior.
But watching her made me think again of my friend Josh standing in the ocean and I knew in the moment I was being given an opportunity for joy.
So in front of several friends, and a U of A corporate big-wig, Eden and I sprinted the slowest lap around the field they’ve probably ever seen.
Because, in the words of Lewis, when i was a child I though like a child, but now that I’m grown up, I put away childish things…Including the need to be grown up.