We won’t be ourselves
There are things I love about kids and things I do not. For instance, I like that my kids are always glad to give me a hug. I do not like when they scream at the top of their lungs in the car. I like watching their joy over a pile of leaves. I do not like how they redistribute the leaves back around the yard.
One of profound things I like about kids is something I hadn’t really thought about until recently–they are okay being themselves. When they like something you know it, when they hate something you really know it. If they want to skip down the sidewalk they do. They are quick to return love and a wary of those who mistreat them. They wear the things that reflect how they see themselves (or what feels comfortable) without concern over how other people will view their choice of attire. They may not be incredibly self-aware, but they okay with being themselves.
Adults on the other hand are often obsessed (both consciously and subconsciously) with the image we project. We choose clothes based on how we want others to see us. We often fail to express joy, sadness, and a host of other emotions because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves. We are externally-defined creatures.
In Christian circles we sometimes talk about “having our identity in Christ” or “pleasing an audience of one” (cheesy, I know). Both of these are great concepts, but we stink at them–I stink at them. My identity is so deeply bound up with the perception of others–both individuals and general society, that I have a hard time even discerning why I am the way I am and act the way I act. This is a widespread problem.
Let me give you an example. Recently a woman shared with me that she didn’t know if she should lift her hands when singing in church or not. She said she wanted to but feared that people would think she was arrogant, or silly, or inauthentic, or a host of other things. Her actions in a moment that was supposed to be about drawing near to God were determined by all the imaginary judgements happening around her. This is what we do, in almost every moment of life.
We may hope to have greater maturity than a child, but we would do well to pursue the same freedom of identity kids have. If we can truly have our identity in Christ he will free us to live as the person we are meant to be rather than the person who is a conglomerate of all the someones we assume others want us to be.