As a youngster, one of the activities I loved the most was riding a roller coaster at an amusement park.
Buckled up tightly in a rickety open boxcar, I would wait with great anticipation as we would all slowly make our climb up the railroad, only to then fear for my life as we’d plummet drastically and turn speedily through the course.
What a rush I would feel each time I would ride one, living life so care-free.
Indeed, our childhood can feature such innocence and abandon, as we may often give in to natural impulses without any thought or restraint.
Over time, however, that purity can turn to feelings of bitterness, cynicism or apathy.
Case in point: Working as a high school Religion teacher, my classes consist of a mixed bag of religious viewpoints and attitudes, at least some of which fall into these categories.
While I do have students who carry a strong belief in God and practice their faith devotedly, one could expect many others hold at least some questions about God, His living presence and unconditional love all around us.
A notable number of kids can also bring into the classroom jaded mindsets, annoyed with activities and discussions that connect our society with the Almighty.
Certainly, this doesn’t seem to be a pattern restricted to adolescents, as various data reflect a striking amount of indifference, distance and entire opposition among young and middle-aged adults towards God and religion today.
No doubt, there are a plethora of reasons explaining this, not the least of which include personal experiences and preoccupation with activity in a secular culture.
But have you ever wondered what our society would be like if each of us maintained our original child-like openness about matters such as faith?
I recently heard a song on a Christian radio station speaking to that point exactly, with the singer longing to return to his simplicity as a child, when his relationship with God was sure.
Back then, his soul was not tainted by materialism or envy of others.
He was not burdened by worries such as whether he’d have a prom date, the type of clothes he felt he must wear, the post-secondary education or job he’d obtain, what kind of house he’d live in or whether he’d be able to take a certain vacation while paying all of his bills on time.
His unabashed belief in the Good Shepherd was all that he needed to navigate through life’s challenges.
As a child, he was secure knowing – as the church hymn suggests – Jesus loved him, for the Bible told him so.
He had confidence about himself without fearing judgment from others around him, as he would proudly and with ease let that little light of Jesus shine from within him.
Only when he later began focusing on life without God did his dreams begin to vanish, his happy-go-lucky personality start to harden and his relationship with God come to experience a large divide.
As children, we find ourselves in need of direction and dependent on others to teach us; thus, our innocence propels us to follow God as our guide and our foundation.
Isn’t it funny how, as we grow older, our vulnerability and humility can give way to skepticism and ego, driving us away from the God who loves us and wants so much to be involved in our lives?
Let the little children come to me… for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. (Matthew 19:14)
Jesus calls us as His children, reminding us that it is with such zeal for our faith in Him that we will obtain salvation through Him in Heaven. (Mark 10:13-15)
And so, no matter our personal story, may we return to our roots of openness and embrace of God so we can feel and seize His warmth and know the depths of His love each day in our lives.
Then, with a renewed spirit for God – exuberant and trusting like that of a child – we can ready ourselves to have our lives take off for a thrill ride beyond imagination, the likes of which no theme park roller coaster could ever compare.