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Wide-eyed and innocent

February 18, 2017

Recently, I went out for lunch and on the next table were a young couple with a small child. She was able to sit up but probably wasn’t quite walking yet or talking. She made a little noise, but just excited sounds, and joyful sounds. What she could do wonderfully was smile, and look at you, look at you with big innocent eyes. A window back to innocence, a time before sin, a glimpse of Eden. Yes, I know, she was probably a right little madam and had kept her mother up most of the night before. But in those eyes there was no concept of doing wrong, just innocence.

I can imagine God looking upon that child with a wistful smile, remembering his creation before the fall. Remembering when, God looked at what he had done. All of it was very good!” (Genesis 1.31). Indeed, all of the first chapter of Genesis, through until the third verse of chapter two, is about innocence. A time before our fall. A time to look back to before we focus on tackling the consequences of our loss of innocence during Lent.

These thoughts then led me to think of Jesus talking with his disciples (Matthew 18.1-3), “…the disciples came to Jesus and asked him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus called a child over and had the child stand near him. Then he said:

I promise you this. If you don’t change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven”.

But how can I recover that blind, animal innocence of a child? The simple answer is that I can’t. Nor should I want to. The innocence that I am called to, post fall, is something far more than the innocence that was lost. A small child is innocent because they do not know right and wrong. So, if they cause harm it is not from any inner malice; they are unable to see the consequences of their actions, nor are they yet equipped to control their actions. Their innocence would be very dangerous for an adult. It would be like giving a toddler a hand gun! They would be completely innocent but many could die, including them.

No, I am called to an open-eyed innocence. An innocence in which I know right from wrong but am no longer corrupted by that knowledge. I need to allow the Spirit to change me until my inner motives and drives are motivated by love, and only by love. I am very, very far from this state. But over the years that I have been working with the Father, I have found that his Spirit has indeed worked to make me more innocent; more like Jesus. It is a slow process, at least with me it is. I get a little better, and then slip back again. I feel like Mary’s little lamb in a variation of the old nursery rhyme: “Mary had a little lamb, it’s feet were made of lard. For every single step it took, it slipped back half a yard!”

Thankfully, God is forgiving, kind and patient with me; and slowly I seem to be getting better. I am slowly learning what Jesus meant when he prayed for his followers (see John 17) A long prayer often summarised by the instruction to be “in the world but not of the world”. This is a prayer that all of Jesus’ followers might be innocent in a fallen world, just as Jesus was innocent in a fallen and corrupt world.

The secret again is in letting the Spirit change me inside, because it is from the motivations inside that all the evil that I do comes. This is, again and again, at the heart of Jesus’ good news to the world. I’m not going to produce lots of quotes, but a few such passages include: Mark 7.18-23, Matthew 15.15-20, and 1 Timothy 6.5-10.

It is in this way that I hope to become innocent once again, but with my eyes wide open; innocent in a fallen world, as wise as a snake while being gentle as a dove (Matthew 10.16). As this change happens, I find that my attitude to life changes too. I have become less anxious. I am more content and worry less (see Matthew 6.25-end).

I think of that little girl again. I remember my own daughter as a little girl. I remember that wide-eyed look of innocence and joy at being alive. I hear my little daughter’s infectious giggle. I remember, and I smile, and I pray, “Father give me more of that”.

  1. Agatha Finch permalink

    I loved reading that! I’m finding that the closer I come to knowing God, the more joy I’m finding in simple things that I encounter on an everyday basis. Maybe, in that way, I’m becoming more like a child … and I definitely feel more content.

    • It seems to me to be that knowing God has given added zest and ‘colour’ to everything – a childlike appreciation of the everyday as wonderful.

  2. jean black permalink

    here! here!

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