A recent, excellent column by Colleen Mitchell triggered some thoughts I’d like to share. A good starting place is a line from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, “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.” (1 Cor. 13:11, NAB).
That kind of sums up my life, a constant struggle to put away childish things, thoughts, desires. I congratulate myself from time to time when I have a success, being an “adult” and “responsible.” But you probably know as well as I that there is this constant tug buried deep in our psyches battling to suppress that inner child, to be a “grownup”. I haven’t run into many adults who, having put away childish things, are not locked in the seemingly endless, mindless rat-race of life in this millennium.
We forget to pray, forget that God is next to us, ignore our own health, lose track of our lives in countless ways, often leading to anxiety and depression. I am certainly that person and I know that I can be very unhappy with myself and am not sure what to do about it.
With this as a backdrop, the other day, after dinner, my wife brought me a bowl of cubed watermelon along with hers as we sat to watch Jeopardy. How thoughtful she was and I looked forward to us sitting for a half hour and relaxing together after our long busy days. I took the first bite.
Immediately, as if by magic, I was transported back in time to a summer when I was around 12, on vacation at my grandfather’s mountain cabin with extended family around us. The watermelon…so sweet, so wonderfully chilled…just like that day. It was early evening and my sisters, brothers and cousins had been swimming in the creek down the road. We had been playing wiffle ball in the yard and developing a delightful hungry feeling in our stomachs. It was warm; sun shining through the leaves of tall trees and if you listened past our laughter you could hear bees buzzing and birds singing.
I was a city kid. The only grass and trees I knew were in the church yard. For me, to be at that summer cabin was to experience a complete immersion into a 12-year-old’s vision of heaven. Towering trees, fields of tall grass in the valleys between the mountains, endless play, new things to explore, sweet fragrant air, a boundless future. The eternal banquet promised in scripture consisted of hamburgers, corn-on-the-cob, potato salad and…watermelon. My loved ones gathered around the table laughing, joking and just enjoying being together, a simple yet full existence that contained no measurements of success or struggles between good and evil, worry and fear.
That single taste of watermelon resurrected that clear visceral memory of my 12-year-old self back to the front of my memory. What an amazing thing, a single sensory experience causing such a profound re-experience! I thought of another passage of scripture, this time from Matthew where Jesus said, “I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, NAB). I was being reminded, wordlessly and lovingly, that putting aside childish ways is not the same as being child-like in faith, hope and love.
That summer glimpse of heaven had remained dormant for more than 40 years, waiting on the Lord to unlock it and present it to me at a time I needed it. He reminded me to be as a child in my belief, trust and love of my Lord and my fellow pilgrims in this life, a message I need now and going forward to the next phase of my life. Letting myself be led forward, not in a rat-race but in a procession of laughing, singing people moving toward the light. I sure hope the watermelon is as sweet and cold as I remember!