Back to Childlikeness

“Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in. Whoever continually humbles himself to become like this gentle child is the greatest one in heaven’s kingdom realm.Matthew 18:3-4

When I was a child of about four years old, I went for a walk to the Wagga Botanic Gardens with my favourite aunt—my great aunt Marcia—and one of my younger brothers, Jim (he was still too young to walk any great distance and was thus sat in his stroller). My great Aunt Marcia used to love taking us, partly to drain some of our excess energy and partly because she enjoyed what the gardens offered: beautiful floral displays, a playground, and an animal park. 

On one such adventure to the gardens, we deviated from our usual track and walked a new path onto an ornate bridge. We stopped in the middle of the bridge to look below. I strained to make myself taller and poked my nose above the bridge railing, but I still wasn’t high enough to catch a glimpse of everything that lay beyond. Taking pity on me, my great aunt hoisted me up for a better view. 

As a little child everything seemed so big and bright. There was a sheen on the world that hadn’t yet been marred by cynicism and naysaying, and I drank in the scene below through that bright lens.

In front of us there was a pond and floating atop the pond was a luminous green carpet of water lilies, and beside them, paddling ducks. It was a serene moment. Beautiful. I can still remember it clearly. As I looked out over the water-lilied carpet, I thought about the story of how Peter had stepped out onto the water to walk to Jesus. Not sure why the scene made me think of Peter walking on water, but it did.

My moment of reflection was cut short when my great aunt placed me back on the ground, held my hand to the stroller, and walked us from the bridge to the edge of the pond below to feed the ducks. 

We settled into a spot and my great aunt handed me some bread to throw to the ducks, then turned her back on me for a brief moment to break some bread for my little brother. In that brief moment, I pulled a Peter (well, sort of). I hadn’t seen Jesus on the water—but that hadn’t stopped me from attempting to walk on water like Peter had.

My poor aunt turned around just in time to see my head disappear beneath a cluster of water lilies. I resurfaced momentarily as two women arrived on the bridge above, one of whom yelled something and jumped into the water just as I sank. The lady resurfaced with me in her arms and carried me back to my great aunt. 

Freaked out of her mind, my great aunt was visibly shaking as she put a spare baby blanket around my shoulders and said as calmly and as gently as she could, “Catherine, what were you thinking? Why did you go into the water, dear?” 

I said, “Peter did it, so I can too.”

My great aunt was confused, but then after a few seconds it dawned on her: “Ohhhh… You mean Peter from the Bible?”

“Yes,” I said matter-of-factly. 

My great aunt caught my drift and didn’t tell me off. Instead, she sighed and said something to the effect of, “Please ask an adult before you go doing something like that ever again, Catherine.” 

* * *

Five minutes ago I was in a time of worship and Jesus took me to a garden. We walked along, arm-in-arm, around a fountain and along a dirt pathway surrounded by all kinds of beautiful plants, before we arrived at the centre of an ornate bridge. 

We looked out over the water below. It was covered in water lilies and there were ducks paddling. It was then that I realised we had arrived at the exact same bridge from my childhood (above).

I saw little me at the edge of the pond again, stepping out onto the water. And I saw little me disappear beneath a cluster of water lilies. 

I heard Jesus say, “I love your heart, Catherine. You were fearless.” Then He nodded for me to look at something. 

I turned to my left and saw two women appear beside me, look over the bridge below and then one of the two yelled to her friend, “Oh shoot! She’s gone under!” She tore off her bulky sweater and jumped over the railing into the water to go after me. 

“See that woman who went in after you?” said Jesus. “I sent her.” 

I watched as the woman pulled me from the water and as my aunt thanked her repeatedly. 

“We don’t usually walk this way,” the woman said to my aunt, breathless from a combination of feeling the effects of the cold and surplus adrenaline. Then she turned to me and said, “Pretty sure you’ve got someone upstairs looking out for you, sweetie! Are you ok now? Please don’t ever do something like that again! You’ll give your poor aunty a heart attack!” 

Realisation hits. 

Standing on the bridge with Jesus and watching the scene play out below, it occurred to me (as an adult) just how odd it was that when I went under the water as a child, I had absolutely no fear. As I sank to the bottom of the pond, I still had no fear. I had a strange, surrendered acceptance that I would be fine. I knew I wouldn’t drown, and I didn’t. I may have fallen beneath the water, but I was immediately fished out. No breathlessness, no water swallowed, and no blocked airways. And absolutely no trauma from the event—even up to this day. 

“I am taking you back in time and you are going to be reacquainted with little Catherine,” says Jesus. “Little Catherine wasn’t stupid, she was innocent to the things of this world and she was teachable. She didn’t doubt. She wasn’t cynical, she wasn’t proud, and her heart was full of possibilities. Little Catherine still exists… we just need to remind her of who she is.”

There is a pull at my heart as Jesus says this. There is something pure, raw and innocent about a child acting out of a place of replication or mimicry. A child watches and learns. They don’t necessarily know whether what they are absorbing is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ they are sponges who absorb all kinds of information. There is no questioning of motives. No thinking about what others might say or how they might judge. It’s just, “Peter did it, therefore I am going to do it too.”

I hear Jesus say, “How it is now for my body of believers is not how it will be, Catherine. They will come awake and they will become childlike again. And as they step into childlikeness, they will learn from the Father and will walk fearlessly across the earth. Just as I only did what I saw my Father doing, Catherine, I am taking my body of believers back into childlikeness so that they can mimic my Father, too. And it is from that place of innocent mimicry and teachableness that signs and wonders will begin to follow the body of believers.” 

I pull a wisp of hair from my face and tuck it behind my ear. There is so much clarity,  here, in this moment. So much stillness. I understand that a new season is coming, or has now come. I can feel it in the deepest places of my being. No more distractions. No more unbelief. No more sabotaging ourselves out of God’s best, and no more explaining away His truth and goodness. We are about to step into a time where we embody our childlikeness and become the awakened, fearless imitators of the Father we were always invited to be.

Don’t get me wrong, intellect and rationale have their places in the world, but we have conversely forgotten that childlikeness is of the Kingdom. We have an invitation to inhabit the simple fearless “yeses” and “noes” of childlikeness and to constantly walk in awe and wonder of our amazing Heavenly Father.

And that is where the vision rests. Me standing arm in arm with Jesus, with a gentle breeze dancing about His robes and the sound of nature chattering in its own way around us. Jesus says:

“Come, body of believers! Come walk with me in childlikeness and without apology. Observe our good Father and mimic Him to your heart’s content.”