this past sunday, i got to experience one of the witness one of the most amazing acts i've ever seen. i served in Grace Acres for two services and we had "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" parties. we made Him birthday cards, played with balloons, ate "Happy Birthday Jesus" cookies, and wore birthday hats. but it wasn't the cards or balloons or cookies or hats that made this day special to me. it was witnessing these 3- and 4-year olds praising Jesus with all they had!!
prior to sunday, i had not served in the classrooms this month, but the Bible verse for this month was "God loves us so much that He gave us His One and Only Son" (John 3:16). When asked "Why is Jesus special?" Every. Single. Kid yelled at the top of their lungs "BECAUSE HE'S GOD'S SON!!!" Of course, when they grow older, they'll learn the true meaning of this, but to witness 3- and 4-year olds singing and praising Jesus and knowing that He is God's Son absolutely warmed my heart and soul to its very core. And I can only imagine how much God and Jesus and the angels were rejoicing at that sound in Heaven above!!!
i wanted to blog about this on Sunday, but i couldn't really find the words. but they came to me this morning as i was reading over my "To Do in 2011..." list (random, huh?). as i was reading over my list of goals/things to do/see/accomplish, i thought to myself "I hope I never lose my sense of adventure. I wish I could bottle up this feeling of adventure and excitement." and then it hit me: neoteny
Okay, so the word itself didn't pop into my head. But i remembered reading about it in In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (awesome book, btw!), so I grabbed it off the shelf and flipped to find the passage.
according to Mark Batterson:
neoteny: the retention of youthful qualities by adults
Derived from the Greek word neos, which means "new, fresh, or youthful"
He precedes the passage about neoteny by sharing a story about a man who worked for Hallmark who would go into classrooms and ask the kids "How many artists are there in the room?".
In the first grade, the entire class waved their arms like maniacs. Every child was an artist. In the second grade, about half the kids raised their hands. In third grade, he'd get about ten out of thirty kids. And by the time he got to sixth grade, only one or two kids would tentatively and self-consciously raise their hands.
All the schools he went to seemed to be involved in "the suppression of creative genius" (1). They weren't doing it on purpose, but society's goal is to make us less foolish.
(1) Gordon Mackenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (New York: Viking Adult, 1998), 20.
(Mark Batterson, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, 152)
while i, prior to reading this book, had never even heard of the word "neoteny" (in fact, if you had said it to me, i probably would've responded to you with my typical o_O face and said "Bless you...??"). but the concept of it is what i refer to as "getting logical".
As kids, we have various mechanisms we use to express what we know and don't know. for instance, when i was asked "Why is the sky blue?" or "Why is the grass green?" as a 2- or 3-year old, my response was probably "God made it blue!" or "Because God's favorite color is green!" (Who knows? Maybe it is!) But as we get older, we are infused with knowledge. The more we learn, the less we give credit to God for it. If you asked an adult why the sky was blue or why the grass was green, you'll probably get something akin to a lecture about the sunlight, atmosphere, and Rayleigh scattering (sky) and chlorophyll and chloroplasts (grass) (...but then again, only I may give you that lecture, so don't ask me ;) )
If an adult gives the "God created it that way" response, they may be labeled as "naive" or "foolish". Thus, we begin to credit God less in our faith and spiritual walks, even for simple things like Creation. We give into society's pressure to not look foolish. We settle into the comforts of life. We are afraid to step out and look foolish. We lose our child-like mentality and that affects our spirituality as well.
"Spiritual maturity is becoming more like Christ and more like a little child." -In a Pit..., 155.
"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
So to bring this thing full circle, I'll conclude by saying that I'm both a dreamer and a very practical person. I have my list for 2011 as well as my "Bucket List", but I plan my course through various practical applications and by taking "smart" steps.
I hope that as I grow spiritually, I will cling less to my "practical, smart, organized, controlling self" and lean more toward my "big dreamer and adventurous" self.
I pray that I won't get "too logical" and rely on myself and my knowledge rather than reading Scripture and Truth and by exercising faith.
I pray that I wouldn't be afraid to yell "BECAUSE JESUS IS GOD'S SON!" at the top of my lungs (not literally, i mean that metaphorically for sharing my passion and excitement about my faith).
I pray that I will always have the child-like qualities that God adores so much.