How time moves on; it moves on whether we want it to, or not. One minute we’re innocent children and then we’re uncertain and awkward teenagers. Then we’re young adults, trying to find a place and a role in the world to fit into and something to be a part of. Then somehow, we’re just another adult, trying to make sense of it all, trying to get educated, trying to find a job, trying to be someone different amongst those other many millions and millions of people that inhabit the world at large.
I remember snippets of things from my past; I remember some holidays we had, or little bits of them, or snapshots of certain holidays, memories frozen in time, and sometimes I wonder what is the purpose of memory, remembering things, people and places long gone in our past. It evokes nostalgia, it can evoke happiness, it can evoke sadness and it can even evoke a ‘bittersweetness’ remembering happy times that are far off in the distant past and perhaps remembering people that have gone from our lives, one way or the other. It maybe also that in the past we had a kind of innocence to our lives, and there was an innocence to who we were; we might mourn for our lost selves and the innocence we once had.
The human race seems to progress in many ways; technologically, educationally, financially and we can accrue wisdom, become sophisticated and become just more polished in many different ways. But sometimes for all of this, we lack something; we don’t know what it is we lack, but we know or feel something is amiss. Human progress and advancement, making money and becoming sophisticated are something that many humans aspire to, but at the end of it all, even when we get what we think is our heart’s desire it can all appear empty and without value.
The story of man’s creation is one of harmony, peace, happiness, contentment and a perfect spiritual relationship with our Creator; somehow inevitably, it all goes wrong and our first two ancestors lose that special relationship because of their disobedience, and they lose their original innocence too. Somehow, this story seems to play out in every human being’s life; a start of great promise and happiness and joy, which gets overtaken by all our human faults like greed, selfishness, arrogance, self-importance and which always ends in people being unhappy in some way and not fulfilling the potential we had if only we’d listened to God. Somehow inevitably, it all goes wrong.
Like most people, I remember things from past holidays and when I do they make me usually happy, and also as I said sometimes they fill me with bittersweet memories of times and people and places long past and even long gone. Sometimes it even fills me with a sense of loss, for lost happy times that were as carefree as they were innocent; and how I look to repeat such simple experiences but try as I might I just can’t seem to. We lose something as we get older; is it a sense of innocence, or a sense of wonder or a sense that something is bigger than our lives and we are merely a part of life and not the most important thing?
Do we remember things exactly, or do we even when we don’t mean to embellish memories, making them seem worse than they were, or better than they were, or just different to what actually happened? I know if I visit a place again that I visited years ago, I always remember it slightly differently to how it really was; I think many people do that.
We remember who we once were; we might remember our childhoods fondly or even perhaps with sadness; we can even be angry about things that happened in the past when we were kids, all those yet again bittersweet memories from long ago. Do we pine for our lost selves, the sweet simplicity we once had, before we became sophisticated, before we became ambitious, before the reality of money and earning a living came along? Do we miss that simple, carefree and intimate relationship we had with our Creator when we were younger, when we had nothing to prove and no particular place to go and not desiring much more than being happy and at peace? The story of humanity seems to be one of regret, unfulfilled promise, and a yearning, through all the madness and chaos of a busy and bustling world, to find something real, that lasts and that has value and a space where we can be truly fulfilled, both spiritually and materially.
We see then, but we only see through a glass darkly. We are jaded as adults, and we know that we have lost that original innocence we had as kids, innocent kids born into a not-so-innocent world. Was it all those years ago, that we danced and played in the rain, that we didn’t worry about any little thing, that school holidays seemed to go on forever and forever? Is there any surprise about Jesus when we read that: ‘Then he said, 'In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.’ (Mathew 18:3 NJB) In becoming worldly, ambitious and sophisticated as adults, and in trying to be important and successful, have we missed the very thing we have really been looking for all our lives, the very thing we pass by and ignore and see as of no importance? We might have roamed the world trying to find it or read dozens and dozens of books or made all kinds of acquaintances and friendships, and all to no avail.
In searching for peace of mind, have we missed the very thing we need to know, the very thing that would bring us peace? Will having lots of money bring us peace? Will having a busy social life bring us peace? Will being the most important person bring us peace? In many respects, no material acquisition or particular status will bring us anything but short-lived glory, a passing thrill, that doesn’t last, and makes us only search harder for the next thrill; but all to no avail. How do we become like little children; and why?
We become like a little child when we see the world through innocent eyes, when we ditch our worldliness and selfish ambition, and learn to live again and put our trust and faith in Jesus. The only way to find rest and refreshment for our souls in this desert of a world is to simply have faith, and to ask Jesus to make us like little children again, innocent and carefree. Relish life, dance in the rain, eat some sweets and see the world once again through the eyes of a child!