I’ve been called gullible my entire life
It was my dad’s summation of my character every night at the dinner table. The master of spinning untruths, was always waiting for that “REALLY?” to pop out of my mouth so he could use that descriptor and prove his label.
Dad’s anticipation of my “REALLY?” was fun for him. His laugh at my expense was common in our home, I wasn’t his only target but I was probably his easiest one. I knew that teasing was his way of showing me love even when it brought tears. You had to be tough to eat with Dad! No quarter given to fools.
Looking back, there was an innocence to my gullibility. I was a little like Coach on the old TV show Cheers, willing to always believe in simplicity and goodness. I never imagined there were bad people, lies, ugliness, rebellion… I think part of it came from watching TV shows in the 60’s that portrayed an idyllic family life. Dad was wise and mostly smart. Mom was loving and beautiful. Kids got into trouble but nothing so awful it couldn’t be fixed in 30 minutes. Even Lucy, who did the dumbest things, was loved by Ricky and she ended up meeting movie stars!
I inhaled that kind of TV. I struggled later in life, to accept that problems were normal, people do bad things, life doesn’t go as planned, not everyone is kind, reliable, caring or honest. Often my simplistic view of life was reinforced by the church’s teachings. If I do A B C, God will reward me with D E F… I equated Biblical Christianity with achieving the American Dream.
Recently I read the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. There they were, naked, walking with God daily, talking to him, seeing his face, interacting with him as their creator. We don’t have any idea of how long this went on before the serpent/apple drama. It could have been years, months or days. Whatever the timeline, they knew God intimately and only knew the good emotions that came from an innocent relationship with God. Love, peace, joy, goodness, trust, wholeness, purity
And then they blew it. Now they’re hiding, covering themselves, hedging their words, blaming others. Emotions they’ve never experienced enter the scene. Unworthiness, shame, guilt, fear. The very creator who said they were “good” is now their enemy. They were created in his image, meant for his pleasure and enjoyment, to live with him forever in unimaginable intimacy. Only man was created in God’s image, none of his other creation could know him this way. Angels and beings lived under his command, worshipped him, did his bidding. But mankind…was the image of God. The intimacy of that relationship was like no other–ever.
Loss of innocence is a phrase that means various things. For me it was an awakening to the boneheaded behaviors of others and their impact on my life. It was also a wakeup to and correction of my own selfishness at wanting that simplistic life at all costs. If it meant blaming someone else for causing my life to be complicated so be it. My mantra for years was, I didn’t sign up for this…
But I did
One of the things that comes to mind about those innocent years is the freedom and joy I had in simply being a child. I played freely and had the run of the neighborhood. In summer we left the house in the morning and didn’t come home till dinner. No one stood over us telling us what or how to play, our imaginations ran free. Alliances were made and remade. Moms fed and watered us then sent us back for dinner, unless we finagled an invitation to stay! It all depended on what was being served in our own homes.
I’m not sure if any of us can truly imagine the joy of innocence. My own childhood is simply a shadow of it. I was blessed with a measure of joyful innocence but it was still afflicted with the sinfulness of humankind. Jealousy, fights, arguments, selfishness all lived within that childhood world, shaping me for the future. They were attributed to normal childhood behaviors, things we would outgrow as we learned how to be kinder and less selfish. Proof, if ever there was, that we inherited the consequences of Adam’s choice. No one is born good, it’s a learned behavior. You could leave a room full of babies alone in an idyllic environment, all their needs met, and they’d still want what the other one has.
Under these kinds of circumstances joy is a challenging emotion to discover. It’s an elusive emotion, not always well defined. Happy we get, joy not so much. I experienced it recently during the holiday season when a mom with 3 little ones dropped by. They marched into my home with words and stories that blessed me! When the 18 month old stood in front of the dog crate and shouted “DOG” at Maggy, I wanted to shout with her. As the 3 yr old showed me all the “boy” ornaments on my tree I realized I’d raised girls and needed to up my boy game. Holding her newborn…no words.
I also experienced it when spending time with one of our church kids, who spent a couple of nights doing laundry, hanging, watching a movie. Just being “home” with us. Being the “hang” home for church family is a particular joy.
It’s been a December of joyful celebrations for me this year. Family both natural and spiritual have gifted me with joyful times. Healing of my body has allowed me to experience physical joy in a way I’ve not known for years. City adventures, cross cultural music and foods (I’ve never had so much rice at Christmas). Funny how the theme for Church this month is “The Promise of God Brings Joy”. I didn’t even connect it until I received a lovely ornament gift…
Restoring the innocence of joy is something only the King can do. Born into humble moments of our lives as he was that day, he brings a message of joy to a people whose innocence is lost.
But not forever!
Joyful innocence is a present we all need, I hope that you are looking for those moments and allowing the King to gift them to you