And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Wide-eyed curiosity and fun-loving pleasure—such candied concepts are the things our modern, Western world associates with childhood and the image of children. Though the ancient world of Jesus’ day did find value in children, they also saw them as weak and powerless.
We’ve seen the way that Jesus reconfigured the image of childhood—to value weakness—for the Jews of His day, and now we can explore how He will do it for our modern world. Jesus, much to our consternation, has a tendency to offend everybody equally. He offended the Jews over how they saw children’s weakness—setting an emblem of weakness against the culture of status-seeking that the Pharisees set. And He will offend us in how He promotes children, and points to them as signposts for the way into the Kingdom.
C.S. Lewis famously stated, in his The Weight of Glory, “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We often think of childhood as a time of pleasure and as a time for the imagination to run wild. But somewhere along the way, we scuttle our imaginations and give ourselves over to reason and rationale, as a way of life. We “grow up” and learn to “adult.” Somewhere along the way, we become that ignorant child in an adult body, for we become ignorant to the power of our imagination to do anything more than use it for a pleasure-seeking that merely pleases our flesh, not our spirit nor the Spirit of God. Somewhere along the way, we lose sight of what children know intuitively—that “infinite joy is offered us” and we trade down, choosing those “mud pies in a slum.” So money, sex, and ambition become the stuff of life, the complement to a life lived out by those “far too easily pleased.”
But that’s not what Jesus wants it for us, and it’s not how He intends to leave us. His whole teaching ministry was meant to re-awaken our imaginations to what’s possible for us now that we are children of God.
But we need to start with differentiating between mud pies in a slum and a holiday at the seashore. In other words, are we settling for a suppressed imagination that squeezes a few drops of pleasure from ordinary things of this world? Or are we rising to seek the “infinite joy” that, much like waves on a seashore, continually crash over your life and leave you breathless with wonder at the majesty of the sea of God’s love? Where are you standing, in the slums, by the seashore, or somewhere in between?