Brim full of excitement a young child runs down the platform, totally absorbed in that intense and thrilling wonderment which blesses us at this age. Close by stands a thoughtful and far less distracted adult, a man gazing intently at the activity at the far end of the train. He could well have been her father, he might even have been wondering where her mother has got to (the toilets are positioned behind the camera, and she emerged from this direction a few moments later). A little further on we can see two older people standing backlit in the sunshine, one of whom is about to sit on a bench. Not for them the way of the child – gloriously uninhibited abandonment to the full depths and possibility of the present moment - they seemed altogether less carefree, as though weighed down with the preoccupations of age.
Three generations of humanity caught in one moment, revealing between them the destiny of time travel which awaits us all across the span of a normal lifetime.
Or does it, because one way or another we carry our child-self within us for life. A middle-aged or elderly adult may appear to be ‘grown-up’ - and of course in the literal sense they are - but sometimes a person’s reactions and words tell us clearly that their inner child is actually very close to the surface of their being. Transactional Analysis provides one way of navigating around and through such interesting yet perilous territory, and counselling offers the prospect of setting our inner child’s presenting fears and reactions at rest. But in my experience there is little room for doubt when you come face to face with someone’s unresolved inner child. You think to yourself “where on earth did that reaction come from” and hey presto, QED.
But what of the open wonderment, the curiosity and sense of enchantment with the present moment and the world around us? Must we lose this as we grow up? Or might this gift of childhood set the adult free? At school my art teacher always maintained that he would give anything to be able to draw and paint now with the same terrifically uninhibited freedom of expression he had had when he was a child. Could it be that this is exactly the sort of thing that Jesus was getting at when he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’? Giving ourselves wholeheartedly without inhibition to the present reality of God’s Kingdom of Love is a tall order for us adults. Many grown-ups fear change, distrust the new and prefer the safety and security of that which is known and familiar. Risky abandonment to Jesus’ call to freshly express the promise of God’s love for the poor, needy and outcast sends many heading off towards the bunkers and fortifications of habit and tradition. You think that I’m joking? Go as an outsider to an unfamiliar group of people and try suggesting that there may be different and - horror of horrors - even better ways of doing what they do. Light the blue touchpaper of ‘impertinence’ and retire to a safe distance, then watch the fireworks go off. Small wonder Jesus was nailed to a cross: he was far too risky and threatening to settled ways. Yet time and again I see people who prove that it is possible to recover that joie de vivre of childhood. I meet fantastic people of faith who are brim full of excitement just like that young child running down the station platform; committed, passionate, thoughtful adults who are totally absorbed in that intense and thrilling wonderment of being truly caught up in God’s amazing presence in the world. Jesus frames for us a precious moment in time which can last a faith-lifetime and take us deeply into the truths of his kingdom of heaven.