becoming like a child

“Dad, should I wear my mustache?”

My son asked me this the morning of his sixth birthday before we headed out for breakfast. Of all the gifts my wife planned, the variety pack of mustaches had been a last-second impulse purchase at the check-out.

“I don’t see why not,” I replied.

“I bet people will think it’s real!” he added. So we headed to the diner, where a handful of older men, either alone or with a friend, start their days with the paper and conversation. My son was excited to see if he could pull it off. I found myself enjoying his enthusiasm, and just a little guarded for his young heart. As we entered, the hostess smiled at us both knowingly, and I explained we were there to celebrate a birthday. On the way to our table, an older man glanced at us, nodded his head in approval, and said with a serious but approving tone, “That’s a fine mustache young man.” And with smiling glance up at me that implied, “See, I told you so,” my son and I sat down and began our tradition of reviewing his last year.

Here’s his list of the things he had learned that past year:

• Troy is in modern-day Turkey.
• I am better at both soccer and basketball since last year.
• I learned to ride a bike!
• We liked to climb our shed.
• I don’t like change.
• I miss our old playroom; it was good for battles. It was brown, and then blue.
• I like kindergarten.
• I can write.
• All our friends are my best friends.
• I’ve not learned much new about God this year.
• I want to go camping this spring with my new sleeping bag.

I found myself considering the endless list of things I have “lost” since “becoming an adult.” Jesus once said that unless we become like a child, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Mathew 18:1-5 ). He was even “indignant” when folks prevented children from coming to him, and he explained that “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:13-16)

We need Jesus to explain it to us perfectly one day. But my sense is that he’s describing what the Kingdom of God is like, as well as the character traits of Heaven’s inhabitants. Kingdom inhabitants apparently exhibit humility, are less pretentious, and see things as they truly are.

Consider this an invitation to let God renew a childlike approach to the claims of Jesus for our life and healing. Can we learn to play again? I have grown too wise in my own eyes, too savvy, too cynical, too busy, too responsible, too self-aware and self-protective, and too afraid to ask for help in the myriad of ways I’m not enough.  Let us ponder a few things that children have to teach us:

They are humble enough to ask for help. When they are scared or in pain, or wanting to know the risk of trying something new, they let you know. Oh, how I’ve worked my whole life trying NOT to need help.

They are bold enough to assume you’re interested in them. We must learn as we mature not to be self-centered, to read the room, and realize how to share space, time, and energy with others. But there is something delightful in a child’s assumption that you want to hear their stories and see their projects. LORD, help us see how you view us with interest, and as children made in your image. May we presume that you delight in us!

They hide, but for fun, with the whole point of actually being discovered. Yes, we have learned to hide in various and complex ways, and it is no longer a game. Often for good reasons, and in view of the pains we have experienced in this life, we hide out of our understandable fear and shame. But while we need wisdom in how and with whom we share our hurts, may Jesus bind up our wounded and broken hearts.

They are delighted when found. We’re so used to hiding now, that being found can feel more like being exposed instead of the culmination of great game with someone we trust. In Jesus’ name, in view if Jesus’ life and death and resurrection work on our behalf, may we rediscover the delight of being found by God, and encouraged by God’s loving heart toward us.

Friends, I pray that you can find a trusted friend or counselor with whom you can discuss the serious work of re-becoming a child. For those who enjoy music, I recommend Needtobreathe’s “Child Again.”


The serious work of heaven is play – C.S. Lewis


Jeremy WhiteJeremy White is the Executive Director at the Barnabas Center, having joined the ministry in 2017. As the Director of Barnabas, Jeremy oversees the business aspects of the Center in all locations, serves on the Board of Directors, and sets and implements ministry vision with the Board and the Management Team. Prior to joining Barnabas, Jeremy was involved 20 years with Camp Lurecrest, a summer camp and retreat ministry, serving 12 years as its Executive Director/Camp Director. Married to Lindsay; they have 3 sons – Keller, Coleman and Porter. He loves all things outdoors, English Premier League soccer, and exploring or working outside with his family. He is a Ruling Elder at Hope Community Church in Charlotte.

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