Childlike or Childish?

by Joanie Butman

Last week I mentioned Christ’s desire for us to become more childlike in our faith. Based on the picture to the left, you can see ‘childlike’ is obviously not a reach for me. The challenge, however, is confusing childlike with childish. When I was physically, emotionally and spiritually immature, my childish nature threw temper tantrums, pouted, whined and demanded explanations. ‘Because I said so’ was an insufficient reason to deter me from, or encourage me towards, anything. I had to do everything my way regardless of the consequences.  As I matured –  through years of searching, suffering, learning about and experiencing the presence of God – I’ve finally reached the point where I can be at peace with the mystery of unknowing. My new attitude reminds me of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthian 13:11-12.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Knowing Him is the only answer I’ll ever need. So how and where did I discover this new-found serenity? By trudging through the desert experiences of life I discussed last week, and discovering the blessings of letting go, of surrendering my own will and desire to understand things I’m not capable of grasping. Looking for explanations not accessible this side of the grave only left me wandering in circles like the Israelites, never getting anywhere and being miserable in the process. However, learning about and encountering God enables me to travel through life more tranquilly, confident in the truth that despite appearances to the contrary, God does work for the benefit of those that love Him and that one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and answer all our whys. For now, His loving BISS will have to suffice.

As much as I balked at my parents’ because-I-said-so parenting style, accepting that mandate as a Christian has been quite liberating. God’s left a large tome detailing who He is and how He works so that His “because I said so” is the only explanation we’ll ever need. As a parent, I learned early on that if my kids didn’t like my answer, they were going to like my explanation even less, so I stopped giving one. They balked the same way I did, but they just had to trust that I had their best interests at heart. And so it is with our Divine Father.


Having reached a certain level of spiritual enlightenment, does it mean I don’t act childish at times? I think another visual will answer that query – obviously not. Sadly, in addition to my propensity for silliness, I still have temper tantrums, pout and whine. I haven’t been too successful on those fronts; however, I did stop ‘wine-ing’, which has contributed to my serenity immensely. Whether whining or wine-ing is your issue, I think we’d all benefit by heeding Pope Francis’ no whining sign that made the news last week because the consequences he cites could destroy anyone’s peace. It reads, "Transgressors are subject to a syndrome of victimization and the ensuing reduction of a sense of humor and capacity to resolve problems. Sanctions are doubled when the violation is committed in the presence of children."

Managing my childish tendencies will be a life-long endeavor, but in my faith walk I can choose to reach for God’s hand with the surety of a toddler that my Father will always be there for me and that He definitely knows best.