I take myself way too seriously . . . . Even though our family’s motto is “Live. Laugh. Love,” and our catch phrase is “Have fun,” it seems lately I’ve laid aside my wardrobe of mirth and frivolity and donned a straitjacket fashioned from the chainmail of solemnity. Okay, okay, dramatic overwriting aside, it appears I’ve lost touch with my inner child. While he’s out playing in the dirt somewhere, or catching toads, or throwing rocks at sparrows, the outer adult has allowed himself to be caught up in the rigidity, busyness, and gravity of the world. But what did King David say? “Through the praise of children and infants / you have established a stronghold against your enemies, / to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2 NIV®). And Jesus scolded the disciples when they tried to keep the people from bringing kids to Him so He could pray over them. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” He said, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14 NIV®).
So what is it about the praise of children that so effectively establishes that stronghold against the enemy? Why did Jesus say “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these?” Children trust absolutely, yes. They laugh and romp and play, of course. But I think the real key to the kingdom is the undiminished joy of living life moment-by-moment. Joie de vivre as they say in Quebec! Or in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps roulez! Laughter is the praise of children, and who can remain down and out when that glee pierces your heart and puts life back into proper perspective?
For years after Hannah was born I made a concerted effort to allow myself to be a kid again. I reveled in making up silly songs, loved reading kids picture books (even without Hannah being present), and looked forward to weaving brand new stories during car rides. I got down on the floor and built towns out of Lincoln Logs and skyscrapers out of Legos. We made up knock-knock jokes and corny riddles that caused Mary to snort. But over the past several months it seems my sense of fun’s been sidelined by an overdose of worldly cares, from money woes to anger about the Government’s implementation of asinine public policies to nervousness about terrorism. These petty worries have piled onto my jollity and executed an immaculate Pumphandle Powerslam. But I’m never down for the count.
While I salivated after taking delivery of my 10,000W gas powered generator, Hannah drooled over the box it came in. “Dad, can you open the box now so I can have it?” she asked. Over and over and over again. When I finally got to it, Hannah hovered around me like a fruit fly buzzing around a glass of wine.
“I may have to cut open one of the sides,” I cautioned. “The generator’s too heavy to lift out.” She whimpered a bit but watched with restrained anticipation as I popped the lid and sliced the corners of the crate.
“Wow! It’s a garage!” she exclaimed.
After I slid the 240 pound machine out of the carton and off the pallet, I carried her “garage” into the house and sicked her on it. She spent hours—no, days!—creating forts and hidey holes and various secret dwelling places with that box. Using additional material newly arrived from a furniture delivery, she built a porte cochère and tried to build a covered hallway. She even invented a lock for her door by weaving a piece of nylon rope through four holes, two on one flap, two on the other. “Try to open my door,” she called from inside her secret hideout. I grabbed the rope but the door wouldn’t open. “Now try it,” she said. I tugged the lock and the doors swung open. She giggled in delight.
One bright cool morning I stepped onto the back porch to breathe in God’s glory and found Hannah crouched under the prickly pear, building a contraption out of cardboard and bamboo skewers. “Look at my fire pit, Dad!” she called, smiling big. “We can toast marshmallows over it when I get it done.” I told her the whole fire pit would burn up if we tried to light a fire on it, but she continued building, undeterred. Later she constructed a fort out of cholla cactus sticks, three porch chairs, and two beach towels, and spent another hour trying to coax our border collie to hang out in there with her.
Observing Hannah play opened my eyes to just how far I’d let myself drift away from joy’s center, how danged serious and depressed I’d become over the past few months. Her intensity and focus on the moment—not a millisecond before it or after it—reminded me of an experience I’d had sitting on a hard plastic bench at the mall. While Mary shopped, I parked my butt in the kids’ corral and watched Hannah, shoeless, laughing, and squealing, romp around on the squishy foam playground. Hannah and the other kids frolicked unabashed, unashamed, not caring a wit about what other people thought about them, they were just little bundles of pure joy experiencing each moment immersed in their interaction and imagination. They worshiped God by being what He created them to be—His children.
King David wrote, in Psalm 16:5-11 (NIV ®):
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Eternal pleasures are derived by keeping ourselves centered in God’s holy presence and living life moment-by-moment, as children do. We give Him the glory and He rains down His gladness. We immerse ourselves in His reality and He never leaves our side. We praise Him and His sovereignty and He smacks the enemy upside the head. “This day is holy to our Lord,” said Nehemiah. “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b NIV®). Now where’d that inner child run off to? I’ve got a rubber band, a paper wad, and a toilet paper tube. Wonder what kind of trouble we can get into this time . . . .
Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes