The paradoxical truth about mature spirituality is that we must become childlike. Actually, nothing is revealed to us about true heavenly realities until we do. I’m not talking about being childish or staying gullibly ignorant, but having the disposition that children possess that graciously receives transcendent mystery with an open heart and that even thrives in its wonder.
The sad thing is, we have to be taught how to overly-complicate and flatten our world and make it very small. We become unhuman in the sense that we’ve developed amnesia to our true selves and, thus, have lost our souls. This loss haunts us at a very deep level, and if we continue along this trajectory it will eventually suck the very life out of us, as proverbs tells us:
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death. (Prov.14:12*)
While we seem to intuitively sense this, it continues to elude us as we search for what we cannot grasp with human wisdom, so we progressively deaden our childlike hearts and settle for weak counterfeits, going through the motions of life until this deep sadness ends with our last breath. But it doesn’t have to be this way! This soul-search can also lead to a discovery of great joy, and when we find it we gladly abandon all to have it:
44 “Heaven’s kingdom realm can be illustrated like this:
“A person discovered that there was hidden treasure in a field. Upon finding it, he hid it again. Because of uncovering such treasure, he was overjoyed and sold all that he possessed to buy the entire field just so he could have the treasure. (Matt.13:44*)
I think this is why Jesus said to receive the Kingdom like a child (Matt.18:3). The problem is, we’ve learned so much as we’ve grown up that has made us blind. This is why so much of growing in spiritual maturity is about unlearning and letting go.
The mantra of this world “construct” says don’t believe unless you see. We must figure it all out and remove all doubt before committing to anything. However, in the kingdom of God, we won’t see until we believe. We must walk by faith, not sight. And Jesus said that spiritual revelation that brings life does not come by human reasoning, or even human imagination.
63 “The Holy Spirit is the one who gives life, that which is of the natural realm is of no help. The words I speak to you are Spirit and life. But there are still some of you who won’t believe.” (John 6:63*)
Paul said the same thing in the following passage:
14 Someone living on an entirely human level rejects the revelations of God’s Spirit, for they make no sense to him. He can’t understand the revelations of the Spirit because they are only discovered by the illumination of the Spirit. (1 Cor.2:14*)
While there are a lot of good things that can be discovered by human reasoning in the natural world with the sciences and in the world of academics, these same humanistic means utterly fail us in deciphering heavenly realities. They’re actually counterproductive and useless for finding the deepest and most meaningful things about life. We need to develop a totally different set of senses to know these things. Fortunately, God has given them to us, and has even given Himself to us, in order to unveil these life-giving realities, as Paul says earlier in the same passage.
9 This is why the Scriptures say:
Things never discovered or heard of before,
things beyond our ability to imagine—
these are the many things God has in store
for all his lovers.
10 But God now unveils these profound realities to us by the Spirit. Yes, he has revealed to us his inmost heart and deepest mysteries through the Holy Spirit, who constantly explores all things. (1 Cor.2:9-10*)
It’s always been interesting to me when I read the Gospels that Jesus only spoke parables to the crowds, but whenever anyone drew near and asked Him what these cryptic stories meant, He would always explain it to them. I believe there’s a principle here for us.
If our heart is humble and open and we want to know more, we can ask God and He will graciously reveal it to us. But if we’re full of ourselves and not really interested in going beyond the echo of our own thoughts, nothing is revealed to us. Sadly, these people will foolishly dismiss what they do not understand.
Jesus tells us that God has confounded the wisdom of the wise in order to reveal His deepest truths to babes:
25 Then Jesus exclaimed, “Father, thank you, for you are Lord, the Supreme Ruler over heaven and earth! And you have hidden the great revelation of your authority from those who are proud and wise in their own eyes. Instead, you have shared it with these who humble themselves. 26 Yes, Father, your plan delights your heart, as you’ve chosen this way to extend your kingdom—by giving it to those who have become like trusting children. (Matt.11:25-26*)
Jesus said this just before going on to reveal two transformational truths to those who had “ears to hear.” The first truth is that only Jesus has intimate knowledge of God and reveals it to whomever He chooses (see also John 1:18).
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matt.11:27 NKJV*)
Who does Jesus choose to reveal the Father to? Those who come to Him with a child-like heart!
The second transformational truth is revealed to us as we leave our soul-wearying way of life for His joy-filled way of life. I love how the Message paraphrases this:
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt.11:28-30 MSG)