Tuesday, January 22, 2013

on growing up and learning to be childlike

Growing up is a strange thing. From the time I was little I associated growing up with freedom. Freedom from school, from parental authority, from all the rules of childhood. I used to journal about how badly I wished time would speed up and I would be 17 or 18 and be going to college, and meet "the one" and then a few years later I would get married and start a family of my own.

I associated growing up with being done with all childish things and most childlike things. While I grasped the concept of a "childlike" faith, I always thought that growing up eradicated all other childlike tendencies. 

In the past few months I've been realizing some things about growing up, and in the last couple weeks, I've been trying to figure out how to share with words, what I was starting to comprehend. At last I decided to just sit down and write everything I've been thinking about lately concerning this whole concept of "growing up".

Growing up doesn't mean freedom in the sense of getting away, and being free from childhood and parental rules. There are a lot of college students and young adults in their early twenties who are living on their own and away from parental guidance and are "free", but they haven't grown up at all. It's kind of ironic,actually, how desperate they are to cast away all ties to childhood, and yet how childish they act. Obviously this isn't the case for everyone but it is for some, and it's the case for enough people that it makes me wonder what really marks "growing up."

Growing up means you learn how take the beauty and the pain together. You learn how to be prudent, and make wise decisions. It means you put aside childish behaviors and childish wants and you recognize your responsibilities for yourself and others.

Growing up is two-sided. Yes you have to live in "reality", but growing up doesn't mean you forget everything you knew as a child. A child is so full of innocense and beauty. A child recognizes truth and goodness. A child will look at the world with an entirely different pair of eyes than an adult. A child will look out at a fresh new snowfall and be excited, excited for the fun and beauty and all the adventures the snow holds. A child won't grumble about having to clear the drive way, or scrape the car, or drive to work or pump the gas in the frigid air. They won't think about all the extra work it will take their parents to get them ready to go out, and then help them get everything off when they come in.

People smile at childhood innocence and sweetness. But as a child grows older, society starts to tell her that she is being childish, that she needs to face reality sooner or later. Oh sure, it's all fun and games for kids, while their kids, but the world tells them that to grow up, they need to leave all these silly fantasies behind.

Children are not run down by the mundane things of life. They see good, and joy and happiness in everything. They see the best potential in things. They don't worry about things. It's true, children don't have to deal with everything that adults have to deal with. Children don't have the responsibilities of life that adults do. Children, for the most part, can be shielded from pain that adults have to live with.  Children don't have to make huge important, stressful decisions about their life. But that's just it. That's what growing up is. It's learning to hold on to the things a child knows, while learning to deal with things an adult has to deal with it. It's a balance between remembering how to be childlike, in everything, while dealing with things life throws in our faces.

 "What good is an offering to an idol
that can neither taste nor smell?
So it is with afflicted man 
who groans at the good things his eyes behold
Do not give in to sadness, 
torment not yourself with brooding;
Gladness of heart is the very life of man
cheerfulness prolongs his days. 
Distract yourself, renew your courage
drive resentmet far away from you;
For worry has brought death to many
nor is there aught to be gained from resentment. 
Envy and anger shorten one's life, 
worry brings on premature old age."
                                        --Sirach 31:19-24

And so as I begin this adventure known as growing up, I will try to place my trust entirely in God and remember to stop and appreciate life, and to truly live each day.

I am learning how to be childlike.

To trust.

To be joyful.

To see the best in everything and everyone.

To recognize the truth and beauty in the world.

And to love.

-mary kate