Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think I was as close to knowing God on a real and tangible level at that age as I ever have been. When we’re kids, we’re these blank slates, you know? We haven’t learned how to be cynical yet. We haven’t learned sarcasm. School hasn’t explained away the magic inherent in the world.
God thrives in that kind of mind set. Uninhibited by our insecurities and various hang ups… When I was a kid, I felt like God was an invisible playmate. We would go on adventures together in my back yard. He would nudge me and whisper a joke in my ear. We would taste the drop of nectar in a honeysuckle flower. We would tell each other stories. He was as real as my best friend who lived down the street.
Eventually, that all came to an end. God stopped being a confidant and instead became the inscrutable, ineffable, mysterious vague ball-of-light-shaped-thing in the sky we all know. When that transition first began to occur, I was angry. I thought that I was doing something wrong. After trying my hardest at doing everything right and he still remained distant, I thought he was doing something wrong.
In time I came back around and figured it was probably more likely it was my fault after all. I did my best to glean lessons out of the ordeal, and slowly my relationship with God is recuperating.
But tonight, I was struck by a thought that had never occurred to me before: What if the perceived distance between myself and God wasn’t the result of my failure as a Christian, but as a human? What if God never went silent, I just put in a pair of earplugs?
When I was young, I looked at the world with wide-eyed wonder. As I grew older, wonder was replaced by knowledge. Knowledge led to familiarity, and familiarity led to contempt. Like every other angsty twenty-something, I decided that I was too cool for the simple things. Why go on an adventure in my back yard when I have a car? Why taste a honeysuckle flower when I can pay for my own meals? It was much easier to look cool by mocking things than it was genuinely enjoy them.
Real talk: I pride myself on being smart. I think somewhere along the line, without realizing it, I decided that I would rather prove how smart I was by rolling my eyes and making jokes. In exchange, I gave up my ability to authentically participate in life. Instead, I would go through life, slightly detached and at a distance.
Is it any wonder that I feel slightly detached and at a distance with God?
So here I am, at twenty-nine years of age, and all I want is to rewind back to when I was eight years old and God and I could talk to people without being afraid of having an awkward exchange. Or maybe back to when I was six and God and I would attack the hill behind our house with little trowel because I knew for certain there was treasure buried beneath it. Or maybe I’d just go back to when God and I tried to make kool-aid before we knew the difference between “sugar” and “salt”. Honestly, any one of those would be preferable to being a grown-ass man who is convinced that he’s too smart to find the joy in any of those activities.
Then the question is… How do I fix it? How do you pay the rent on Monday, then pretend the floors are lava on Tuesday? How do you drive responsibly on Wednesday, then spend all day Thursday building houses for your Lego people?
I don’t know. But I’m done with going through life with God as a distant figure instead of my buddy.
God, give us wide eyes. Make them shine like the sun. Remind us to look at the world we live in and find the magic that’s waiting for us there. Teach us to see you. Teach us to hear. Make us the kids we used to be.
Paul Allen is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah and two cats, Ego and Karma. HfG on FB