Growing Up until We Are Little Children

The goal of life is to grow up until we become little children. It has always been so. But we prefer the way of growing up until we are in control. We do this because we suspect a motive in the narrative we’ve inherited. We suspect a sly tactic to prevent our growth. 

This is what the exercise of deconstruction is all about. We take things apart to try to find out what the original motive is. Like a huge house, our history, our religion, our culture, and our upbringing loom before us. We may say, “We’re convinced there’s a rat in the basement” and commence to take the whole thing apart — not realizing all along we ourselves are the rat. We need to become little children. 

But here is the problem. Children trust too much. Children believe too much. Children get hurt —  or worse. And we have had enough of that. So we grab a crowbar engraved with these words: “I will never get hurt again!” And the deconstruction begins. 

This go-kart of a motive works for a while. We outmaneuver a few threats, perhaps even make it round the track. But if we belong to Jesus, we will inevitably hit the barricade where He says:

“Assuredly, I say to you,
unless you are converted and become as little children,
you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
~ Matthew 18:3 (NKJV)

The Greek word here for “little children” is παιδία — “paideia,” as in the word “pediatric.” This is gender-neutral, as when we say “kid.” This is not a teen coming into his own, not even a tweener. This is one who does not know enough to filter his words or put on airs or be self conscious that his socks don’t match. He is unadorned. He has no armor, nothing but five smooth stones for the slingshot Daddy gave him. Together they can enjoy the sound of Coke cans clanging in the backyard. 

Let’s flip from suspicion to trust for a moment: If the child is safe, if the child knows he is 

deeply loved
genuinely enjoyed, and
fully cared for

what is there left for the child to do but enjoy the wonder of everything around him and constantly chat it up with the parents about anything and everything coming to mind? And what is left for the child to do when tired, afraid, or confused but to rest in absolute repose, confident  that mommy and daddy will take care of everything? What is left? All that is left is to be courageous. 

This is not to say that becoming a little child is becoming an anemic simpleton. We are commanded to seek until we find. We are designed to convert creation into something better. (What would we do without zip lines and hang gliders?) We are made for exploration. And any reading of brilliant minds such as Edison, Einstein, or Pascal reveals the child-like wonder that fueled their intellectual quests. No, we are not talking about a benighted naïvete. 

And we are not talking about the kind of answer-seeking that leaves us smugly smirking at the gullible with our arms folded. It is not a self-protective smirk we seek, but absolute surrender, arms dropped to both sides, ready to be poured out. 

We are talking about tasting the freedom and the joy we were designed for before we decided to become clever and take matters into our own hands.

Now, once we realize that we have taken matters into our own hands — say, when we are disillusioned or run out of steam — it can be a healthy exercise to deconstruct our own lives. That can be the redemptive side of finding the wind knocked out of us: “Why am I doing what I do? Why do I believe what I believe? Am I living from the root of my authentic self, or from the topsoil of my context?” (“Topsoil” can be a cipher for less savory forms of farm stuff.) 

But the full answer does not end with the discovery of a fractured agenda — meaning, the discovery that we have no self-justifying assertions with which to clothe ourselves. This is only half of what must happen. The other half is to take our unadorned selves (our “deconstructed selves,” if you will) to the Creator and ask Him to guide us through the house. In other words, we de-center ourselves from our own process. He becomes the center. It is only in this way, where we put our sense of nakedness at great risk, that we have any hope of discovering the Lord’s own agenda. Isaiah the prophet describes de-centering this way:

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
~ Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)

If we abide in this vulnerable humility long enough — meaning, more pain might come before we are out the other side — we will discover that His agenda has not been to explain each wooden panel on the wall to us, still less to control us, but to reveal by contrast of the wood His will. And what is that will? For each of us, that will is an irreproducible, individualized thing. And yet, whatever that unique thing is for each of us, it will not be an austere set of instructions. It will be an epiphany that converts us to little kids. We will discover that we are

deeply loved
genuinely enjoyed, and
fully cared for

and in this way, we will finish growing up. 

If our deconstruction has not yet encountered this agenda in the heart of our Maker, then we have not yet dug deep enough, but we have only picked at bricks, poked at shingles, and given names to the glass that’s cut us.

Perhaps that is because, in the midst of the house, we have not yet discovered a Great Wooden Sign embedded there, cross-shaped and bearing the weight of it all, which holds the whole house together, ensuring coherence to the complexity. Ensuring that the treasure beneath it will remain until the seeker finds it. Until you yourself find it. 

~ km

© Copyright Kurt Mahler

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  • Jacob Roque says:

    This “reflection”, if you will, was most enjoyable. I would describe it as being similar to eating something sour and at the same time joyful. It leaves that stimulated feeling you get on your tongue, except it is on your heart. . . I am thankful for this reflection because in it, The Lord is teaching me through you how to grow in the deep wonder that is dwelling with Christ. That it is not a terrible thing to look at the soul, but it not enough to remain there. That beyond it lies the even greater mystery which is abiding with Christ in a place where words fail and everything moves faster then thoughts can form. I am thankful for you Kurt. Thank you.

  • Stephen Maxwell says:

    Very enjoyable. Was blessed to read this in this season of my own ‘deconstruction’. Thank you for writing, and sharing.

    • Kurt Mahler says:

      Thank you Stephen, I am glad the words struck the mark. I trust the essay frames what is happening with hope and with a knowledge of Who is with you, He whose name is both “Cornerstone” and “the stone that the builders rejected.” He knows deconstruction, and He knows how to build again. ~ km

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