I often fight back tears as I read the emails that hurting people send to me describing the heartache they're facing. I was recently distressed by the cry of a young teen who shared the deep emotional wounds that had been inflicted upon her by bullying classmates, wounds that are being irritated by the course salt of a disengaged mother and insensitive father. It was an unpleasant whiff of sorrow that left me yearning for the scent of joy. With a heavy heart I proceeded to scroll through Facebook knowing I find encouragement there from the sweet affections of family and friends. I wasn't disappointed.
There were three photos that captured my attention that morning, photos of children whose spirits soar with all the privilege that comes from having parents who love them to the moon and back. Two of the children are the sons of close friends, and the other is my niece. Every time I look at their sweet faces I can't tame my smile. The contrast of their confident joy to the shattered brokenness expressed in the email I received is stark indeed.
As I think of the news unfolding around us, I can't help but to praise God for the priceless beauty of childhood innocence that doesn't know what it doesn't know. It's an innocence that doesn't know there is evil in the world. It's an innocence that doesn't know about bullies, and gangs, and thugs. It doesn't know about genocide, and suicide, and homicide. It's a beauty of innocence that doesn't know about sexual abuse.
It's an innocence that may fear the ghosts of its imagination, but not the reality of its mind. Its Spidey sense is untainted by violation that drives suspicion, and it awakens each morning with a bold grip on the day that declares it's good to be alive.
I find myself thinking about the priceless beauty of the innocence of children that carries no clue that the entire world doesn't adore them. An innocence that entertains no thought that the entire world doesn't have a mind to lovingly protect them, sweetly praise them, and instinctively prefer them. An innocence that doesn't know there are people who will discourage them, devalue them, and disappoint them.
And as I contemplate the beauty of childhood innocence, I smile thinking about how it comes adorned with such a stately spirit of confidence. A spirit of confidence that never doubts it can climb higher, never distrusts it can stand taller. A spirit of confidence that dreams big even as it danes to be bold and dares to be brave. A spirit of confidence unbroken by any law of rigid regulations and petty pronouncements. A spirit of confidence untethered by any leash of you can't instead of you can, and don't instead of do.
And most of all, I'm reminded how the spirit of childhood innocence finds pleasure in the little blessings of life. How accomplishments are enjoyed on their own merit-- unmarred by comparison, untainted by regret, and unsoiled by ingratitude. A spirit that is content to glide from one milestone to the next with an expectancy that fully engages the present. A spirit that finds genuine happiness in the moment without fearful thoughts of the future or discouraging thoughts of the past.
The innocence of children and the spirit of joy that marks them. So beautiful. But in the midst of the beauty an image of a broken young teen emerges in my mind, reminding me that there is sin that steals. Reminding me that there is sin that robs the spirit of freedom and cheats the heart of innocence.
Thievery from a sin robber. A sin robber who not only resides outside us, but who also resides within us.
The unconditional love of parents is powerful, giving childhood innocence permission to fly in God's perfectly timed ordination. It gives flight to the imagination, allowing the spirit to soar with a confidence that claims no limits. But sometimes that flight is tragically disrupted by sin, sometimes with a wickedness drenched in evil that's too great for words. This is life in a broken world with broken people. And while parental love comes with power to help the spirit soar, it comes with no power to secure the heart and seal it from sin.
This is why the beauty of God's love shines so gloriously. It's powerful and pure enough to secure and seal the places that reside beyond parental reach. And when sin robs a child of innocence, God's love is powerful enough to pierce the darkness with His light. This is the love we want our children to know. This is the love that has power to restore their spirits when they're broken by the sin of this world. This is the love that seals.
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matt 18:2-4
I want to reside there. I want to humbly worship Him as an innocent child with unquestioning belief. I want to be a woman who is bold and brave. I want to be marked by a confident joy that knows God has designed me perfectly, that knows He has ordered my life rightly for the display of His glory and grace. I want the spirit of a child.