Through the Eyes of a Child
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The Phenomenon of Man
Remember when you were a young child? As soon as you read that question, you felt that child stir inside you; maybe you even saw the small face that was yours. If you were to close your eyes for a moment and see the child-you, what would he/she be doing? In my case, she would be exploring the natural world using all her senses. She would be grubbing in the dirt, poking things into an ant hill, feeling moss on her bare feet, sticking her nose into a Mimosa flower. Children instinctively recognize the mysterious bond between themselves, their world, and the divine.
Sofia Cavalletti, in her work on spiritual formation with children, identifies the traits of children that support their divine connection. (1) Children come from God, and bring with them an understood connection to the divine; (2) children have a natural openness to mystery; they are comfortable living in the in-between state of not-knowing; (3) they have an amazing capacity for awe born of a rich imagination; (4) they are receivers; they accept their dependence, and are able to surrender to their need for care; (5) children love what is real; real stories, making real food, playing with real things; God is real to them; (6) they are humble, having not yet adopted the masks of cultural norms.
Through adulthood, we move away from that sense of wonder and that natural capacity for exploration because there are so many things vying for our attention, drawing us away from our innate spiritual being-ness. Now and then, we glimpse it in the eyes of our own children and even more so, in our grandchildren, and we remember what it felt like to be one with the mystery.
Miraculously, we come full circle in old age—especially if we have lived well, embraced forgiveness and discarded negativity along the way. Old age can be a time of rediscovery of all that enthralled us as children. As we move closer to reunion with God, we remember where we came from, we accept our dependence, we get more comfortable with not knowing what will come next, and we lose our egos. If we are lucky, we take off our masks and once again approach life with simplicity and honesty. This is the gift of aging if we are open to receiving it.