The quest for spiritual childhood

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THIS is, of course, a challenge for all of us. We have to learn how to remain childlike in spirit even as we age and mature, and gain a lot of experience in life. We have to remember that only when we have this spiritual childhood that we can expect God to reveal himself to us. That’s what Christ clearly said:

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Mt 11,25)

We have to be wary of our tendency to think and act as if we need God less the more we gain worldly knowledge and wisdom. What should ideally happen is that the more knowledgeable and wise we get, the more humble and simple like a child we should be.

To be childlike, of course, has its share of weaknesses, but what is obvious is that to be like a child is to be innocent, to be bereft of malice, of bad intentions and bad thoughts. These ideals should be pursued by us. These qualities make us have the simplicity of a child.

And simplicity helps us accept and live the faith. It’s what makes us children who accept things first, who allow ourselves to be guided and taught, before asking questions, not out of unbelief but rather for greater understanding.

Remember what our Lord said about the kingdom of heaven. He went as far as to say that it is for little children precisely because of their simplicity: “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me. For the kingdom of heaven is for such.” (Mt 19,14)

We need to devise an interior mechanism, more spiritual than material, to keep ourselves like children even as we grow in worldly knowledge and skills, and prone to thinking that we can already live by ourselves, independently of God.

This mechanism can include anything that fosters our presence of God all throughout the day, the practice of rectifying our intention and relating everything that we do to God. We have to break the barrier of awkwardness and incompetence in this regard. We actually have the means. What’s missing is our will to use this mechanism.

And lest we think simplicity is naivete and gullibility, let’s remind ourselves of what our Lord said: “Be wise as serpents and simple as doves.” (Mt 10,16) Simplicity would not be true simplicity if it does not come with cleverness and shrewdness.

Our Lord himself, the epitome of simplicity, is also the epitome of shrewdness. Remember how he read men’s minds, and formed his statements according to what he knew!

That may be a difficult act to follow, but we can always try. We have life itself, with all its cultures, civilizations and our ever-expanding personal experiences, to teach us how to be both clever and simple as our Lord wants us to be.

But we should always be aware of our need to develop this virtue of simplicity. We cannot take this duty for granted, because the logic of our flesh and the logic of the world tend to complicate us.

The false glitter of the celebrity world, the escape mechanisms of sex and drugs, the anomalies of abortion, contraception, same-sex unions, etc., indicate the extent to which our complications have worsened. We are actually ripe for a disaster unless we change.