Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Unrestricted Enthusiasm

- Sunrise at the Desert Retreat House -

Last week my wife and I were away visiting our family on the East Coast. One afternoon we went to pick up our toddler grandchild from his pre-school and as soon as he came out the door of the school he spotted us and started dancing a spontaneous, unrestrained “happy dance” as he shouted at the top of his lungs: “Look, there is my grandma and my papa.”    

The gleeful antics of our beautiful little boy touched something very deep within me. In that one little moment of unrestricted joy our grandson was teaching me something about enthusiasm for life – the kind of enthusiasm I rarely experience as an adult.  It was a “holy moment” and somehow the universe was reaching out and teaching me a great wisdom, a lesson that can only be taught by an innocent little child.

It’s no wonder to me that Jesus placed a small child upon his knee as an icon of wisdom, telling his followers that if they wanted to enter the “Kingdom of God,” they must become like a little child. Jesus once prayed:  

You have hidden deep mysteries from those who are learned
and revealed them to little children.

I’ve been thinking of the “deep mysteries” that were revealed to me by our grandson outside that preschool the other day. In his “enthusiasm for life,” he was revealing a sense of profound belonging, showing that he felt deeply connected to us, his family and he was also revealing his sense of connection to everyone else coming out the doors of that school and even to strangers passing by on the street. He trusted us all enough to spontaneously dance a “happy dance’  in our midst as he enthusiastically announced to the world, “there is my grandma and my papa.”  He was simply “present” in the moment without ever calculating what anyone else might think about his performance and the hearts of everyone who saw and heard him all danced along with him.

Such a great lesson and deep mystery to be learned from that innocent little dancing child: We all belong to one another and we don’t need to perform in order to impress one another. So, be “present” to the surprises of every moment and live with joy, with unrestricted  enthusiasm and uninhibited joy. This is what it means to enter the “Kingdom of Heaven,” this is what it means to be truly alive.

Interestingly enough, the very word “enthusiasm” comes from a Greek word that means “In God.”

Unfortunately, it wont be long before that sweet little child will lose his innocence - it will gradually be drained out of him as he he learns that dancing with abandon in a public place is silly and socially unacceptable. He will soon learn not to speak too loudly, to be careful about showing affection, to be cautious of strangers and not to trust too quickly. He will learn that if you don’t impress others by performing well, you will not advance in life. He will also learn that there is often little in life to be enthusiastic about. Sadly, he will soon be socialized out of his wonderful, original innocence.

I am reminded of something the poet and author, Chris Wiman, once wrote:

To be innocent is to retain that space in your heart that you once heard,
a still small voice saying not your name so much as your nature.
You must protect this space so that it can protect you.
You must carry it with you always.

I think maybe this is the essence of the “deep mystery” I learned from our grandbaby last week. I must do what I can to retain and reclaim that “still small voice” in me, my original innocence, an innocence that allows me to live a life of unrestricted enthusiasm. 

Author and theologian, David Bentley Hart, once observed:

Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience.
It is the ability to see again what most of us have forgotten to see.

Now that I am back home I will try to apply the lesson taught by our little grandson. Today I will try to reclaim some of my lost innocence, open my heart and dance a “happy dance.”

The artist, Pablo Picasso said:

It takes along time to be innocent once again

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