Putting away childish things

Guest blogger Steven Cottam

I’m getting married in a couple of weeks, and so naturally I’ve spent a lot of time recently meditating on what it means to be a good husband. One thought that keeps coming back to my mind is that I’m surprised I’m getting married only because it seems like such an adult thing to do; in my mind’s eye I’m nothing more than a big kid. In a few weeks I will be entrusted to protect and nurture the well-being and happiness, the fragile hopes and dreams, of another human being. In a few years’ time after that when, God willing, kids come along, a number of tiny humans will rely on me for their very survival. Me! The guy who still spends his weekends playing video games and eating sugary cereal in his boxers… until well after noon; the same guy who zoned out for a good ten minutes at the last Parish Council meeting because he was wondering how exactly he might most effectively utilize Batman’s utility belt if a zombie attack broke out.

It’s enough at times to make me think that I should grow up. St. Paul even seems to suggest as much when he tells us that “when I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things,” (Corinthians 13:11). Is it time for me to let go of my childish things: my Star Wars lunch box, my Lord of the Rings action figures, my glow in the dark Green Lantern ring!? However, it’s interesting to note that the words St. Paul’s using to describe his childish self aren’t things at all: they are ways of being – talking, thinking, and reasoning. And in reflecting on that, I realized that I maybe have kept some things from my childhood that are far more sinister than my drawer of dinosaur toys, things that just won’t do in a marriage. 

A collection of childhood toys.
Childhood Toys, by Steven Cottam

Sometimes I’m childish when I need to be praised and acknowledged when I do good, rather than doing good for its own sake. I’m childish when I insist on hurting someone back when they are mean to me (he started it!). I’m childish when I throw a tantrum and get all huffy just because circumstances don’t go my way. I’m childish when I refuse to share what’s been given to me with those around me. I’m childish when I insist that I am responsible in every way for my success (I did it! Me!) and that others are responsible in every way for my failures. I’m childish when I refuse to give any more because I’ve already given my fair share, gosh golly, and asking me to give more is just not fair! These things are childish, and acting toward my wife this way just won’t do: they need to be put away.

But St. Paul’s verse isn’t the only one in the Bible about children. Jesus tells us that if we are not like children, we will not even be able to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14-15). And so I see that there are a lot of good and holy qualities I’ve kept from my childhood as well—things that make me childlike. I’m childlike when I trust someone without reservation. I’m childlike when I forgive someone even though I know they’ll probably do the same thing again. I’m childlike when I take joy in simple routines. I’m childlike when I laugh or run or jump for no reason in particular. I’m childlike when I depend on God and others more than on myself. I’m childlike when I make new friends and invite them to my clubhouse (dinner table?). I’m childlike when I say my nighttime prayers before bed and then tuck myself in for another big day. These things are some of the best parts of me, and I hope to keep them until the day I die (and maybe even then).

So rather than resolving to grow up, for the good of my marriage and my soul, I’ve resolved to try and live in that razor thin margin between being childish and being childlike. It’s a narrow path for sure, and will require a lot more thought and prayer and self-examination to get right; but that’s ok, for I hear that narrow paths come highly recommended. I mean, I’d have to be pretty childish to avoid doing something worthwhile just because it was hard.

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