A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. 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… 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. –G. K. Chesterton
The fountain of youth has been a pursuit of the world for centuries. Stories from ancient times in Alexander’s conquest and ties to all continents in the mysterious search for everlasting youth, all lead to humanity engaged in the idea of remaining youthful. Most of the pursuits involved with it are centered on immortality, though our convergence upon the prospect of idealized life is not to be childlike, but rather to retain youth of physique and age of mind and experience. Youthfulness is a huge market in the world today. People are obsessed with hiding the “visible effects” of aging. In ancient times, the focus had been on the “living” aspect of the fountain of youth, whereas today we are much more concerned with the “appearance” side of being ageless. This ever popular pursuit within our culture to look younger, feel younger, and make others think we’re younger than we are, is a driving force in much of the imitation of significance that so many spend their lives pursuing.
The deception that doesn’t come along with the avenues of these pursuits is the actual spirit of youthfulness. No matter how big you make your chest, you do not feel more significant in your heart. Removing the fine lines and wrinkles does not liven up your eyes so much that it removes the hurt and discouragement which emanate from the windows to your soul. Pills that you can take for confidence, don’t take away the utter conditional manner in which you are seeking approval and love. The lap band will help you lose 50 or more pounds, but not the psychological scars of a bad mental image of your body which do not reflect your true interior beauty. The reality of the pursuit of youth is that without the spirit of child, the external show of it becomes a false reality of appearance and squelches the joy of the heart that sought it.
The spirit of the child is upon us when we wonder; when we revel in the ideas of the mysterious and allow ourselves to be amazed. Sometimes we look foolish as we marvel and smile or stare in wonder at something as pure as a puppy playing, the glint of sun rays in a clear sky, or the gentle care of a mother and her child. But when we revel in the beauty and wonder of the simple treasures in our lives, we loosen the burden of the serious, important details of our demanding schedules and feel the glory of the Lord in the subtleties of existence. As John Updike puts it, “Looking foolish does the spirit good. The need not to look foolish is one of man’s many burdens.” When we know a childlike spirit, we are infused with an ability to be satisfied. This spirit is not one of heavy condition for satisfaction. It is one that simply accepts what is set before it by the one who cares for its needs. This is the reality of the freedom within the wonder of being tended to as a child: there is ultimate security in knowing the simplicity of joy in another providing the vitality of spirit which preserves and sustains the child without the complexities of how, why and when. The child is grateful for the interaction without condition. These are the children who are in the lap of Christ. This is the playful, calming, assuring embrace of the Father which overwhelms us with contentment.
The Spirit of God is closely linked to the child like spirit through faith and trust. A child trusts without question. They are not so aware of needing the circumstances laid out to reasonably explain all the details, they simply trust. Like how amazing candy is; they don’t often question why it is so wonderful, they just know when candy is involved it’s a good thing. Candy in itself is a revolutionary thing for children inspiring excitement. Of course their thought, is, “Candy!!! I love candy!!! Yay, candy!!!” Imagine if we thought about the gift of God’s provision and grace this way. The union of the childlike and the Spirit of God is in the lack of pretense in the interaction. The child doesn’t question its dependence; it feels safety as a result. The child doesn’t analyze why their fed; they just enjoy the eating and the play filled mess. The child doesn’t pretend that they can have fun on their own; they know it takes someone else to tickle them or push them on the swings. The Spirit of God is that which meets the child wherever they are, ready to spend time with the joyful object of his affection. This is Chesterton’s allusion to the youth of the Father; the Infinite God who loves to revel in the simple joy of his creation. The joy of a single daisy, the ecstasy of a sky so blue that you have to reach your arms out to hold it, the elation of a baby’s repetitive giggle as the crazy uncle makes silly face after silly face; this is the Spirit of God’s mark in the wonder that can sweep over us as we lose our inhibitions and enjoy his creation.
God intended us to live in the joy of his preservation. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children” The heart of the Lord is pleased when we call on Him. When we seek his face over and over and over again in our days and nights; when we pause to see the beauty in the world or are mired in difficulty – He is waiting with open arms saying, “Come to me. Sit in my lap and be comforted. Tell me about the wonder you’ve experienced, after all I gave it to you to make your heart glad.” And like children we seek Him again and again, and are rewarded with his presence when we find Him. For the Heavenly Father loves to lavish Himself on those whom He loves. Seek Him with the spirit of a child. Let your heart be filled with gladness. Know the youthful heart of the Father who longs tell you stories, cradle you in his arms and tickle you with his overwhelming joy in your heart! “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”