“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard
The older I get the more I realize how little I really know. When I was a kid I used to think all adults knew everything. They were wise. They knew all the answers; and even if the answer was something vague that didn’t totally answer the question, I always felt like they had a vat of knowledge from which they pulled answers and information. If they didn’t answer a question, it was only because I wasn’t yet wise enough to handle the answer. I thought that it was like some right of passage type thing where when you hit a certain age or become a parent God suddenly gives you all the right answers. I used to say I couldn’t wait to be a grown up. I don’t think I was unique in that. I also don’t think I’m unique in saying had I known that it was going to be like this, I would’ve held on a little tighter to my childhood! Adulthood is not as fun as they made it look back then! Can I get an amen?
For a long time I struggled with the demon of comparison, and still do to some extent; but lately when I look at the adults around me (mostly the ones in my age bracket) I realize ultimately we are all just a bunch of lost kids who grew taller and lost our sparkle. None of us really know what we’re doing. We just try to pretend like we do. Or maybe that’s just me…?
I’m starting to think kids and older generations are the only ones who really understand anything substantial about life and its purpose. As I watch my children play each day, and as I often stress about needing to teach them how to live as they grow up, I understand more and more that really they are the ones who already have it right. Children live with reckless abandon. They live in the moment and they appreciate the little things because for them, they are the only things. They see and soak in everything and they feel it all. They wear their emotions on their sleeves and they aren’t ashamed to let them out whenever, wherever, and however they want. I’m learning 2 year olds are particularly excellent at this. Now I’m not saying adults should run around throwing themselves on the floor screaming every time something doesn’t go their way, but in many ways, don’t we do that anyway!? Its just not as cute and forgivable the way adults do it. Our tantrums are much messier and much more destructive, and way less precious than the toddler tantrums I’m experiencing these days. Kids have no fear of their emotions. They’re not concerned with what anyone else thinks of them. They don’t judge each other, or themselves, and everyone is their friend. The colors are brighter, everything is new and exciting, and when they fall they just get up and keep going! (Most of the time…)
Older adults have similar qualities, only they are more controlled and wise. They have lived enough life to understand what really matters and how to let the rest go. They see things through the zoomed out lens. They too appreciate and value the small things because they realize that they are in fact the big things. They live life in a more vertical approach where they understand their roots and who they are, while maintaining focus on things above because ultimately, that’s the only direction that matters.
The middle years of life are brutal. The shine and sparkle of childhood starts to wear away as we begin to learn about reality. Something happens and we are suddenly aware of the world around us and it becomes a scary, judgmental place. We’re like Adam and Eve in the garden realizing we are naked and all of a sudden we are ashamed. Our freedom gets taken and we become slaves to society. We start to get older, gain some independence and we start to think we know things. We start to wander, and most of us get lost for a while along the way.
Children get to live freely because their parents are handling things for them. The weight of the responsibility of life is not on them and they are not shackled down by the burden of “real life.” They are innocent. Parents set the rules and enforce the boundaries (ideally). Kids have adults who take care of everything for them so that all they have to do is be kids. That’s why they sparkle. They lose the sparkle when they start to say, “I got this.” That’s why the teen years are so disgusting for everyone involved. It is when we start doing things our own way and rejecting the comforts of our parents guidance and protection that we begin to lose our shininess. We grow up and we struggle. No matter who you are, there are years of self doubt, self hate, poor choices, shame, guilt, feeling lost, hopelessness, purposelessness and questioning. Now, those years are necessary and they are what help us eventually, hopefully, find the answers to our own questions and discover our sparkle again through finding our purpose. Nevertheless, it’s a painful process.
I think in many ways this is the same way our spiritual walk goes. When we are children, still innocent and sparkly, we stay that way while our Father takes care of us. When God is in control of our lives, no matter how old we are, we get to sparkle. We get to live freely and openly. We don’t have to fear anything. We don’t have to bare the weight of life alone and we get to live out loud and be ourselves. Colors are brighter. The sun is warmer. Smells are stronger. We are wrapped in our Father’s arms and we get to just be. We are celebrated just for being who we are when we stay tucked underneath God’s arms.
It is when we wander away from that and begin to say, “God I got this” that life becomes more difficult and painful. Just as parents have to allow their children to wander and find their own way back, God allows us to do the same. It is through that process that we eventually learn, “God, I don’t got this.” It is in that place that we find wisdom and begin to regain our lost sparkle. God polishes us back up and shines His infinite light from within us through our broken wandering and our ability to come back on our hands and knees saying, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing. Please Help me!” The adults I see who seem to sparkle and who seem to really get it are the ones who are firmly planted in Christ. They are the ones who are able to say freely, “I don’t got this, but I know that You do!” They may have wandered, they may have lost their shine, but they came back and they found themselves in the One who created them with a purpose.
We are God’s children. We will always be His children. He views us through the loving eyes of a parent, and to Him, we will always be His sparkly kids. The closer we stay to Him, the more we get to sparkle freely. We give Him our ugly and He makes us beautiful. He delights in everything we give to Him. Its like when my son picks his nose and then with a huge smile on his face, holds out his little innocent finger with a huge booger on it and says, “Here you go mommy!” I have a mommy heart, so when I am handed that booger, I don’t hesitate for one second to grab it from my son’s finger and wipe it into the tissue it belongs…or whatever is close by. 😀 Rather than being grossed out by the booger, I see his smiley face and hear the sweet way he says “mommy” and I am filled with pride and love. If a kid who was not my child handed me a sloppy booger, I think I might feel differently about it. Same principle applies with God. Because we are His children and because He chose us before we ever chose Him, he delights in our slimy boogers. He hears us say, “Here you go daddy!” and He smiles at us and gladly takes the boogers and does away with them. Because of Christ, we get to sparkle despite our slimy boogers and we get to live with freedom and reckless abandon.
I believe God gives us children during these brutal middle years of life to help teach us these lessons and to show us how He wants us to live. My boys get it. Through them, I’m learning to get it too.
I totally don’t got this….but my heavenly father does. Growing up is hard and being an adult is not near as fun and flashy as I thought it was gonna be, but I have a Father who wants me to let Him handle things so that I can live freely. He actively wants and even awaits my slimy boogers. He delights in me saying, “Here you go daddy! This is ugly and gross and I don’t know what to do with it…you take it!” It’s in the moments where I understand that that I feel my sparkle come back. I am free to shine when I stop trying to control everything in my own strength and when I stop trying to pretend like I got this. I don’t, and that’s okay. I’m not supposed to.
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
God is waiting for us to hand Him our boogers. No matter how far we have wandered, He wants us back and He awaits us with open arms. The story of the prodigal son says it best. “When he came to his senses, he said… “I will set out and go back to my father.” –Luke 15:17. And the father ran to his lost son. God wants us to be his children, living freely and joyfully, no matter how old we are. He is a daddy who loves us. He is big enough to handle our wandering and our brokenness. He is tuned in enough to hear us and to care what we have to say. He is alive enough to play with us, strong enough to protect us, tender enough to hug us. He is our father and we are His sparkly children. Let’s give Him our boogers and get back our sparkle like the grown up children He created us to be.