Most of us know adults who exhibit childlike qualities. Whimsy, spontaneity, curiosity, innocence, or openness might characterize their nature. And while these qualities aren't limited to a certain age group, they sometimes serve as a throwback to earlier times (see today's Monitor, "Toys 'Я' (for) us grown-ups!").
Consider Elaine, a senior woman who created a story around the pending marriage of a tatty teddy bear named Ted to a doll named Dolly. Young girls from her apartment complex often joined her for tea to plan the upcoming extravaganza. Finally, Ted and Dolly married, much to everyone's delight. Elaine's childlikeness brought joy to the children (and even adults). Some might view this as childish. But the qualities Elaine expresses not only round out her nature as the child of God, but also have forwarded her career as an artist and interior designer.
And a current trend shows that you don't have to be an artist to benefit from embracing childlikeness and creativity as part of your being. Today, companies have discovered that play fosters creativity. Some provide rooms with foosball and pinball machines, pool and ping-pong tables for a much needed break. Creative solutions often come out of moments of departure from a frenzied day. These examples illustrate the vast difference between childlikeness and childishness.
Neither Elaine's successful career nor the provision for play by flourishing companies would advocate childishness, which lacks maturity and poise. In fact, St. Paul wrote of the need to throw off such immaturity: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Cor. 13:11). The challenges of our time demand mature, though creative, solutions; so we all must put away the childishness of quick fixes, self-interest, incessant entertainment and thrill-seeking, and the failure to accept our due responsibility.
Instead, we can foster childlikeness, defined as "relating to, or resembling a child or childhood; esp: marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness." These, combined with childlike qualities such as purity and wonder, humility and receptivity, are essential to expressing our spiritual selfhood and to praying for God's guidance in the challenges we face. God's offspring is not childish, but a childlike nature emanates from God, and so everyone has a divine right to claim it.
The account of Jesus' disciples asking, "Who shall be greatest?" illustrates the value he placed on these qualities. In answer to this egocentric question, he showed them a child and responded, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3, 4).
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, shared the Way-shower's great love for children. She perceived that "Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right. While age is halting between two opinions or battling with false beliefs, youth makes easy and rapid strides towards Truth" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 236). She proved this time and again through her healing work. Mrs. Eddy described one little girl who badly wounded her finger, but didn't seem to notice. The child had heard her explanations of Christian Science on occasion and was receptive to them. When asked about the finger, "she answered ingenuously, 'There is no sensation in matter.' Bounding off with laughing eyes, she presently added, 'Mamma, my finger isn't a bit sore' " (p. 237). Mrs. Eddy explained, "It might have been months or years before her parents would have laid aside their drugs, or reached the mental height their little daughter so naturally attained."
While toys and play aren't intrinsically good or bad, wouldn't it be wonderful if this trend toward more playfulness resulted in greater joy, increased curiosity and wonder, more innocence and purity? A "freedom from wrong" and "receptiveness of right" would allow us, individually and collectively, to find creative solutions to the challenges confronting us.