When we were kids, we were fearless. We climbed up, jumped down, ran fast, skinned our knees, and rode our bikes until our little arms were covered in sweat. We played tag with kids we just met at parks we were visiting for the very first time. We yelped in excitement as our parents pushed us higher, and higher on the swings and were totally amazed when they somehow ran under the swing while we were still in the air.
But, then something happens. We grow up, ride our bikes a little less, and stop hanging from monkey bars all together. Outside of a little head nod or "thank you" when someone hands us our change, we rarely communicate with anyone we don't already know. Our lives get closed off as we get older. I don't know why it happens or how it happens, but it does. Some of it's unintentional, some of it's because of hurt, some of it's because of laziness. Whatever the reason, it happens nevertheless, and we trade those fearless child-like feelings in for more of the mundane.
I was feeling this in my own life. I was feeling myself become more and more closed off to the world around me. I was tired of putting myself out there only to get shut down or ignored. But, then I had a baby... that grew into a toddler, and she has taught me how to play again. How to run again. How to be brave.
Several nights ago, at a local park, Brooke shot family photos for friends of ours, while I followed June around and kept her busy. She was fearless - running down the long concrete paths, up the little bridges, and over mounds of grass to pick up her favorite rocks. I just let her run wherever she wanted, helped her up the more difficult stairs and made sure she didn't face plant when her momentum got the best of her.
At one point during her exploration, she walked towards the largest set of stairs in the park, which we have gone up and down a few times before. She paused for a brief second, looked back at me with a small grin on her face that said, "Do you see what I see?!? These look fun!", and then took off running to conquer the stairs. Up and up she climbed with her little body, and when she reached the top she looked at the large hill still in front of her with the same excitement as the stairs she had just conquered, and we continued our climb.
Upon reaching the very top, I turned my little lady around, held her hand and we ran down the hill we had just climbed. Our running was filled with little June giggles and happy screams. After the hill I grabbed both her hands and swung her down the stairs, while yelling "1...2....3...JUMP!!"
As June's father, I want her to experience these brave moments. I want her to see a set of monkey bars, or a big hill, as an exciting challenge. When she finishes climbing a hill, or steps, she almost always looks back at either Brooke or I with a look of "Did you see that?" She wants to share with her parents and be acknowledged that she has done good work.
As I see her do these types of things, over and over again, I am constantly reminded of the wild, fearless, wonder that I am afraid I have lost as I've aged. And while I am definitely one that likes a good challenge, at times I can be a little hesitant to talk to a stranger, or even exchange more than pleasantries with the person behind the register at Target.
Learning to acknowledge that this child-like wonder has decreased in my own life is only part of the problem. Acting on it and fighting for it is the other part. So, if you happen to drive past June and I at a playground you will probably see me hanging from monkey bars, climbing through tunnel, and (as long as my ankles allow it 😂) jumping from obstacle to obstacle with a sheen of sweat over my brow and arms. I want to feel that child-like wonder in my life again, and I don't want it to ever go away. When it comes to the strangers in my life, I want to be more like June and approach them because they are new and unique. I will start a conversation. Ask them about their kids, their lives, where they are from, what excites them. If they think I am a weirdo, so be it, but I never think people are weird for engaging with me on a personal level.
I don't think, as a Christian, I focus on this verse enough in my life:
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I want, no need, to become like a little child when it comes to my faith and approach God with the awe and wonder He truly deserves. Because how much more does my heavenly Father love me than I could ever love June? If I stumble He will be there. If I make it to the top He will be there. If I need a hand halfway through, He will be there.
If you find yourself in a similar place, go do something out of the ordinary. Go hang on monkey bars, run down a hill or play tag with your kids, or your adult friends. (Try it. It's terrifying and exhausting). Do anything to capture that out-of-breath-wonder and remember that feeling - never forget it! And then, with a new found sense of bravery and wonder, look at the God of the heavens and earth and simply stand in awe, like a child.