Kimberly Russell is a board certified chaplain currently serving at St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. Kimberly earned her Master of Divinity degree at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX and completed her clinical residency at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite in Atlanta, GA. Kimberly loves the educational process and continues to learn and grow in the areas of clinical spiritual care and diverse populations. She also loves the arts and enjoys the creative opportunities available in Memphis and surrounding.
"Grow Up!" This phrase is probably quite familiar to you. Whether you said it to someone else or you were on the receiving end, there is an expectation for adults to act like...well...adults. What is the difference between acting like a child and acting like an adult? In the first letter to the Corinthians Paul briefly mentions growing up, "When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11, NLT). This scripture is used by Paul as an illustration of knowing in part to full understanding, partiality to fullness. Are children part and adults whole or is Paul referring to a child 'not knowing better' but as adults we do?
In my experiences with "Grow up!" the desired result was more realistic expectations. The ideal is a childish notion. Absolutes lose absolution. We live in a world of grey. If a child is shocked that everyone is not treated equally, we admire the innocence and naïveté but if an adult is shocked that everyone is not treated equally the response is, "Grow up! The world is not fair." A child can express emotion openly; anger, sadness, happiness, fear. The older we get, the more reserved we are supposed to be with our feelings. Infants cry, yell and laugh as a means to communicate. Once we gain the ability to speak, we are expected to keep our emotions in check and use our words instead. As adults there is a time and place to expressing our emotions and to do so inappropriately is childish.
There is a lot to say about growing up. Through experiencing life we gain insight, wisdom, understanding, knowledge. We learn how to function in society without causing too many ripples. We learn how to sedate our dreams, stifle our passions and quiet our expectations. What is so wonderful about growing up?
As children we long to grow up. We want the freedom to make our own decisions, go where we want to go and do what we want to do. We have such high hopes for our grown up selves and those hopes are fueled by our dreams, our passions, and our expectations and rooted in our innocence and naïveté. What if we can succeed? What if those high hopes are achievable? Would the world be a better place? If not, would it be any worse for wear?
Get ready for an awesome 80's movie reference. Twelve year old, Josh Baskin, goes to an amusement park for a night of fun. He gets turned away from riding a roller coaster because he was too short and turns to a quarter fortune machine with a wish to be big. The next morning Josh awakens as a twelve year old in the body of an adult. He is forced to adjust to this new adult world while still grounded in his childlike nature. It was no easy task but Josh is not only able to function in this new found existence but thrive. Instead of stripping away the childlike parts of himself, he embraced them and shared them with the world. In the iconic scene in FAO Schwarz, Josh begins to play on the giant piano, jumping from key to key. There was no thought on how other adults might see this behavior, he let go and embraced the joy. And do you know what happened? Children and adults alike stopped and enjoyed the music. His joy spread like wildfire, and his boss (an adult in an adult's body) joined in and together they played chopsticks.
How can being childlike seem so wonderful but we are quick to tell one another to "Grow up!"? There is a difference in being childish and being childlike. To act like a child, after growing and learning and maturing, is childish. To retain the spirit you had as a child, even though you have grown and learned and matured, is childlike. There is an account in Matthew, Mark and Luke involving Jesus and the children. Like so many accounts of Jesus, where he goes people gather and in this particular account it is children that gather at the feet of Jesus. The disciples dismiss these children as a burden or not worth the time of Jesus and Jesus responds to them saying, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children" (Matthew 19:14 NLT).
Embrace that childlike spirit within you, the spirit that has been silenced or pushed down by expectations to grow up. Strive for your dreams, ignite your passions and don't limit your expectations. Innocence is not completely lost. Paul didn't have it entirely right. As adults we believe in part, feel in part... As children we fully believe and fully feel. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to those that are like these children; those that are childlike. So "Grow up!" and be childlike.