We never truly grow up.
We are like trees– by all appearances, we literally grow upwards. But, the little seedling that grew into a sapling that becomes a magnificent tree: is still at the core of every single tree.
Like trees, every season of our growth is encased within us. Year and year after year…
Which brings me to the subject of this post– our pesky inner children.
–If you aren’t familiar with the psychological concept of the inner child, Dr. Steven Diamond authored a great overview over here at Psychology Today.—
My inner child can be a real brat. Whenever she’s ignored, she gets rebellious and stubborn and very clever. Her tantrums can make my attempts at adulting a futile endeavor.
She has some very positive qualities as well… As do all children. Connecting with her, understanding why she is the way she is, is the single most powerful tool in my parenting arsenal. When my kids act out, she’s the first on the scene, explaining why I need to respond empathically instead of tyrannically. (Of course, if your inner child is still a tyrant, you may want to take their advice with a grain of salt…)
She wasn’t always helpful. That is something that has been a long time in the making. When she started to spill her secrets, I realized how much we needed to be on the same page.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life, it is really her feeling overwhelmed by my life. And she has good reason for feeling that way. The world is a scary place for children. But she has me, and she has Him:
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.'”
Matthew 19:14 (NRSV)
At the center of my adult faith, is this little girl that loves Jesus with her whole heart. She knows Jesus in a way that only little children can.
It is the little girl that can feel so hurt by other Christians. Because she knows who He is and what He’s like, and knows when He is not present in their words and actions.
She reminds me that the appearance of goodness is not the same as goodness. Children know full well that superficial obedience is not the same as a whole-hearted sacrifice for someone they love.
This inner child of mine is full of wisdom. She’s powerless to carry it out on her own, which is why she is prone to tantrums. Is there a better way to achieve the full attention of adults? I think not.
It’s up to me to hear her out regularly, to ensure she realizes she is protected and loved.
Her tantrums are the result of my own adult arrogance, and the propensity for thinking I’m far more mature than I actually am.
The good news is– our petulant inner children give us special access to the Kingdom of Heaven. We’d be wise to consult them often, for if they are neglected, they can single-handedly derail our picture-perfect image of adulthood. It is just an image after all…