Today, I went to lunch and a museum with Abi and her son Nate. I forgot how much I missed being around children.
Being with Nate, I was reminded of the thing I love most about children: the innocent unselfishness and curiosity with the world around them. To use an image from GK Chesterton, I might be excited and amazed if you opened a door and there was a dragon standing behind it.
But Nate would have been excited and amazed if you opened a door.
I was reminded of a recent conversation with my roommates about the power insecurities have to strangle the life and joy out of every precious moment. I would tend to argue that the preoccupation with self manifests in any social setting as each person consistently mulling over the same worry, thought, or doubt about themselves, although letting on no hint that their mind is fighting in this tug-of-war with the present.
Although I decided a long time ago that I didn’t care what people think, I realize this decision is one I have to make daily. Becoming more conscious of my own thoughts, I was disgusted with the amount of time I still throw away to concerns of worldly success, physical appearance, or intellectual status.
I like a passage John Piper recounts in his book When I Don’t Desire God:
“How much happier you would be if you only knew that these people cared nothing about you! How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them because they are not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theater in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers” (Chesterton)
He goes on to say that ultimately God frees us from self-absorption by granting to us (though gradually) a “childlike faith.” This term has been used countless times throughout church group and Bible studies, but I have yet to have been affected by it as deeply as this next passage:
“Children always say, “Do it again”; and the grown up 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 daises alike; it may be that God makes each one 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” (Chesterton)
The point is that we are to be amazed “not by the strangeness of people’s noses, but that they had noses in the first place” (Chesterton). And I know that sounds silly.
But I think we live in a world where we want to be floored; we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars taking ourselves to concerts, museums, traveling abroad (hmph), in order, in part, to experience joy in the physical blessings of the world. And I don’t believe these things are bad, not at all (and I recognize there are alternate reasons for doing these things). In fact, I agree with Piper that physical blessings are gifts to be enjoyed and meant to be “pure partners in the revelation of God’s glory.” But I also think there is something special about the practice of being in awe, and truly satisfied, with the mundane, or shall I say the usual. As nothing feels mundane about the sunset, however commonplace it is.
And the more we exalt in the joy of the Lord in the little–the more childlike we become–the easier it is to avert our eyes from our own imperfections and concerns. What a joy it is to find a “street full of splendid strangers.”
To the girl who finds herself concerned with her body: The God we serve never takes his eyes off of you. And he watches you, because he is wild about you. Remember the days when your concern about physicality was which color bow would look best on the playground.
To the one who constantly wonders if he is fitting it: Most of the people around you are wondering the same thing. Pray for the ability to focus your energy on making others feel comfortable, rather than seeking comfort for yourself. Remember the days when it didn’t matter if you brought goldfish or animal crackers to snack time.
To the one who stresses about the future (jobs, finances, schools, marriage): I believe firmly in spending more energy on being rather than doing. Be present and remember that no job or accomplishment will change the way God looks at you. And at the gates of Heaven, I’m pretty darn sure Peter won’t ask what you got on your math test.
To the one who wishes they were a child again: Me too. If only to experience that unashamed joy in the simple act of the opening of a door.
So folks, thats the prayer for the week. And honestly, perhaps my life. I don’t want to continue growing old and continue expecting more and more behind the door. I want to fall to my knees in awe of the God who created it all, including the door. Every single time.
I would love to be praying for you, shoot me at email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In spirit of the times, here are some photos of commonplace, mundane, or usual things I have experienced here abroad thus far including food, people, and random items. I am learning to take as much joy and exaltation of the Lord is these, as I do my trips to the Alps.