When I think about my childhood, all I can remember is trying to be older, more adult, part of the grown-up crowd. I spent most of my time listening to the grown-ups talk or reading to escape my childhood.
I’m sure I must have played sometimes. I had toys and games, favorite dolls and stuffed animals—although those last were mostly because I felt I needed comfort. I was happiest deep in a book, far away from my environment. I had no idea how unhappy I was, though I remember long periods spent staring blankly, without thought or focus.
There was the interlude when my brother and I were on the local swimming team. It got me out of the house and into something competitive and physically challenging, but after less than two years I lost interest and stopped competing.
By the time I was a teenager, I became conscious of my unhappiness. My first remembered bout of depression came when I was somewhere around age 13 or 14. My parents had left for the Sunday evening church service, and I was waiting on my ride to youth group. I recall standing in the kitchen, staring at the oven, and thinking I could just slash my wrists with a knife and be done with “it.” In all honesty, though, I’m not really sure what “it” was. Thankfully, I did not act on the impulse, and it passed.
School was actually a good place for me. I enjoyed learning things, even though I hated the homework assignments. What kid doesn’t hate homework? I mean, like all kids, I preferred controlling my own free time. But, I was a loner, a thinker, and an outsider for the most part, at least as far as I can remember it. Middle school and high school band offered me a new outlet…music. Music came to me like breathing, and I dove as deeply into it as I ever did into reading, because it was another escape from my home environment.
Still, being a child is not something I remember ever really “being” in all truth. Moments, yes. Brief interludes, yes. Childhood…no. What was that? I had to take care of my younger siblings from the time I was between six and seven years old. I had a depressive, suicidal mother and an abusive father. It is interesting to me that when I think of my childhood, I have this sense of everything being overlaid with a brown-colored filter, like a sepia photograph. It speaks to me of fear (of my father), sadness, uncertainty…hunger.
These last few years as I have begun exploring more spiritual experiences, one thing that has stood out for me is the Lord’s repeated references to the joy of being a child, to playing with Him—on the beach, in the fields, and on the clouds. One of the most powerful experiences happened this spring (2016) when He took me to a place in the Spirit…and I was nine years old again. I don’t even remember all the intimate details of what He talked with me about, only that I found myself weeping in some kind of inarticulate grief for something of myself that I had lost.
I would like to think that I can find childhood again somehow, even if I am in my late forties now. All this adult, super-spiritual thinking about resting in the Lord seems to point back to the attitude of a child that Mom and Dad take care of everything. Good parents do, after all, put the food on the table and the clothes on the bodies of their children. They provide protection from people that pose a danger to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of their children.
In actual fact, God is the ultimate parental role model. Father offers love, protection, and provision. Holy Spirit offers comfort, guidance, and encouragement. Jesus is our best friend, our oldest sibling, leading by example in His reliance on the Father and the Spirit. I’m trying to figure out how to stop trying to figure things out all the time. I want to rest and be a child in His presence who trusts without question, but I keep banging my head up against this internal wall of intellectualism, fear, and an overwhelming desire to escape reality again.
Please, Lord Jesus, help me to trust without question and rest in Your presence again. Help me, Lord, to be a child again.