When is the last time you jumped in a giant puddle of mud and water? I’m not talking about accidentally stepping in one and then being mad as you slosh around in a wet shoe. I’m talking about seeing a mud puddle and intentionally stomping your foot in it just to watch the muddy water fly through the air and cover your clothes. When is the last time you did that?
I can’t remember the last time I did that. Literally. I can’t remember.
I’m a grown up. A parent. That means I try and keep my youngest child out of puddles rather than me trying to jump into puddles. I act my age…and he acts his. Lately I’ve been wondering who has more fun. Wondering who is more carefree.
Last week we went to the park with some friends of ours. We had recently experienced two weeks of rain, drizzle, sleet, and snow. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day, but the fields at the park were soaked. There were mud puddles everywhere. From the lips of every parent came the words, “Stay out of the mud puddles.” These words were meaningless. The mud puddles seemed to emit a powerful magnetic pull that drew every kid straight to them. The friends we were with have a son who recently turned five. I won’t tell you his real name because it wouldn’t matter—you see he doesn’t go by his real name. The name he has chosen for himself is Wolverine Thor Flash. That’s what he answers to. I watched with amazement as Wolverine Thor Flash walked straight over to the biggest puddle of water he could find and slowly put his foot in it, feeling how deep it was. Once his foot reached the bottom it was as if it turned into a jackhammer that began stomping up and down sending muddy water all over him and everyone around him. The yelling of his father seemed to do very little. He retreated from the puddle only to quickly find another one that he could do a complete belly flop into.
There he stood, soaking wet and covered in mud. He had no idea that he would soon be cold and wet without any dry clothes to put on. He had no concern for the seats in his parent’s car. He was Wolverine Thor Flash and he had lived life to the fullest. He had seized the moment.
Grown ups don’t do this.
My youngest was born on St. Patrick’s Day. He has always been our little leprechaun, but our little leprechaun is turning eleven and that means he is reaching the shadow land in which one passes from childhood into adolescence and without warning suddenly becomes a grown up. Even now I see the signs. Can I jump in the mud with the five year old, or do I have to stay out of the mud like the grown ups?
Children are full of life. They are not yet weighed down by the concerns that grown ups have. They are not concerned with wet clothes and muddy seats. They are free. They see the world with a sense of wonder.
Have you ever watched a two-year-old watch the world? Clouds, rabbits, snow, dogs, leaves, and dragonflies all amaze them. Their wonder and enthusiasm for life knows no boundaries. Take a three year old for a walk and he or she will notice the leaf in the middle of the sidewalk and pick it up for closer inspection. What is this strange thing that lies in my path? Look at this. Look at the colors. Wow! Amazing!
Grown ups see only a leaf. Children see the wonder in every detail of the leaf.
The tragedy of adulthood is that we lose our sense of wonder. We are no longer fascinated and amazed. Instead we are bored. While children live each day fully alive, we grown ups live each day like the walking dead. We are zombies.
Zombies are less than truly human.
I believe Adam and Eve were truly human. Prior to the fall, prior to becoming the walking dead, they were alive with wonder. Can you imagine the wonder Adam experienced as every wild animal and every bird came before him to be named? I’m sure the sight of all the different trees, the smells of the various scents of the garden, and the tastes of the many fruits amazed him. Then there was Eve. What sort of fascination and amazement filled this couple as they explored another like them, but yet not like them. Passion, sensuality, and love mixed with wonder resulted in the wonder of conception and life.
But it didn’t last. Innocence was lost. Evil and sin meant that Adam and Eve had to grow up. Naked and unashamed? Grown ups don’t do that.
Adam and Eve, and all who came after them, would go through life enslaved to the painful toil of their work, eating by the sweat of their brow. Somewhere in their memory was a land of enchantment, a place of wonder, but those sorts of places are thing of make believe. That’s the stuff of childhood.
But there had been a promise—the promise of a child.
It would be the child, one full of life and wonder and amazement, who would save them. The child who would play in the mud would be the grown up who would use mud to restore sight to the blind. The child amazed by the leaves of the tree would be the grown up who would hang on the tree to restore life to the dead.
This grown up told the other grown ups that they must become like children if they wanted to enter into the land of enchantment (Matthew 18:3), for his kingdom is a place of wonder.
I’m convinced that being truly human in many ways looks more like a child than a grown up. I believe this because I believe that when we are raised into the new creation we will be fully alive and we will be filled with wonder.
Until that time, the church needs to demonstrate to the world what it means to be truly human. We must recover our sense of wonder. We must be fascinated and amazed by life. We must live like children—fully alive.
I invite you to jump in a mud puddle, to lie on your back and stare into the clouds, to study the colors of a leaf, to watch the rabbits, and to contemplate the wonder of your Father’s world.
I invite you to be truly human.