Have you ever heard anyone mention “the child within” or the “inner child”?
Wikipedia has an article on the “Inner child,” which begins by stating:
“In popular psychology and analytical psychology, inner child is our childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children, before puberty. The inner child denotes a semi-independent entity subordinate to the waking conscious mind.
The inner child is the best known lower third of a comprehensive model of the human psyche called the Three Selves.”
This “modern” realization can be seen as very reminiscent of the Riddle of the Sphinx, which goes back millennia:
“In Greek legend, the Sphinx devoured all travelers who could not answer the riddle it posed: “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” The hero Oedipus gave the answer, “Man,” causing the Sphinx’s death.”
The “creature” walking on four legs in the morning” is the child version of Man. We crawl on our hands and knees, unable to stand and walk. The child human is completely dependent on the protection and nourishment of adults – in particular the parents.
From the perspective of being on “all fours,” a child looks up to those who stand before it. Thus, it learns first how its wants and needs are dependent on superior beings.
As life unfolds, and the child grows to an ability to “stand on its own two feet,” this dependency in superior beings is replaced by a preference for equal beings. It begins to shun recognition of superiority in others.
When the time comes that a prop is a necessary addition, by which standing on two feet is maintained, there is a slight return to the childlike state. In a bent over or humbled position, the aged state of Man has to again look up to superior beings.
However, aged means a life of experience, which brings about wisdom. From a perspective of wisdom, Man can see God as the most superior aid to life.
These states of Man are the central theme of the readings this twelfth week after Pentecost. Solomon was a child king. Paul wrote to “aged” Christians. Jesus spoke to free-standing Jews who saw him as an equal – not from heaven – and speaking crazy talk. Even Jesus’ disciples’ struggled to swallow what Jesus said.
The Galileans had each lost contact with their inner child. They heard Jesus speak through one-track ears, imagining his words in one-dimensional ways, as their life experience had programmed them to see.
It is that inner child that that becomes repressed and suppressed as life goes on, because we learn that as children we get hurt, we cry, we place our trust in those who give broken promises in return. We get laughed at and bullied to the point that a smiling, happy face turns to one sullen and wary.
Still, the inner child wants to express itself. The inner child wants to please others and wants to believe. The inner child loves to see smiling faces looking back at it, and wants to please. The inner child longs to be dependent, nurtured, taught – and above all – loved.
But doubt is the damper that puts out that spark of trust.
In the reading today from 1 Kings, we read of David’s death and Solomon’s rise to the throne. Then, we read of Solomon’s love of God and how God came to Solomon in a dream. In the exchange between Solomon and God, it is easy to overlook how Solomon said, “And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child.”
We tend to see kings as adults, those who have been prepared for rule, which focuses on an ability to stand on two feet and keep the inner child safely hidden away.
However, Solomon was young and David had an older son, who would ordinarily have been the first in-line to the throne.
What is not read from 1 Kings, prior to reading, “David slept with his ancestors,” is how David made arrangements for Solomon’s succession, as well as how David gave instructions to young Solomon about what to do with all the enemies of Israel (within Israel), who would threaten Solomon’s reign.
What is also not read, following us hearing, “So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established,” and prior to us reading about God visiting Solomon in a dream, is how young Solomon carried out all of his father’s instructions.
ALL of those enemies of Israel were exterminated, on Solomon’s orders. Solomon looked up to his father as a young child, fully trusting David to teach him the right thing to do. Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother (and something akin to “Queen Regent”) reported to Solomon about his older brother (Adonijah, from another mother) having made a special request through her, to pass on to Solomon.
Because Solomon believed in the righteousness of his father, he immediately saw through that request as an insult and threat. We do not read today how “King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died,” that very day Solomon heard his mother tell him of Adonijah’s request.
Before that order was given, Solomon said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if Adonijah does not pay with his life for this request! And now, as surely as the Lord lives—he who has established me securely on the throne of my father David and has founded a dynasty for me as he promised—Adonijah shall be put to death today!”
Not only did God not deal severely with Solomon, God came to Solomon in a dream offering him the gift of anything he desired. Solomon was rewarded for his obedience – an obedience that was not clouded by intellect.
You see, Solomon did not have the mind of an adult when he obeyed his father’s instructions. When God asked young Solomon to tell him what he desired, Solomon did not seek selfish things – like one would expect a child to want. Instead of “long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies,” the child king told God, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”
That request came from a child who wanted to please his deceased father, while taking seriously the task of upholding his father’s faith in God, as his own.
Years ago, when my son was about six years old, I took him to a theme amusement park. One of the rides was a Model T type car that moved within a concrete moat, with a steel rail down the center. It was impossible for the car to leave that path, but the steering was so poor that even the most careful driver would find himself banging from the left side of the moat wall to the right side, with the rail suddenly catching, sending the car jerking in the opposite direction.
When my son and I began the ride, after the attendant got us started, I told my son he could drive. Off we went … bouncing left, then right.
I was smiling and looked over at my son to see if he was also enjoying the bounding back and forth. Rather than finding him laughing and squealing, he was intently staring down the road, trying his best to steer the wheel and keep us on a straight path.
He was taking the responsibility of driving that car as seriously as he had seen me behind the wheel, driving the family car, as viewed from his backseat car seat position. He undoubtedly wanted to please me by his taking the role of driver seriously. Seeing that warmed my heart and I’ll never forget the look on his face as he watched the road and attempted to steer a car that could barely be steered.
This part of the personality always remains a part of us, even though life experiences cover it up and send it deep within our psyche. Still, this inner child is who God teaches and to whom Christ gives responsibility. Only the inner child can reach out for those rewards of guidance.
Therefore, when Paul wrote, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” it means to beware acting childish, rather than innocent. By following a stubborn adult mind, one that refuses to listen to the inner child’s devotion to right versus wrong, to good versus evil, adults often lash out in subconsciously led irrational acts, which are foolish and childish.
The Christians of the early church had removed their build-up of “adult self” and found the core of their inner child, which allowed them to be “filled with the Spirit.” They sang “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among [them]selves, singing and making melody to the Lord in [their] hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
They rejoiced as children. They danced and sang, unafraid of being seen like that … just as we saw David dance wildly before the ark, a few weeks back.
The Galileans to whom Jesus spoke, they could not fathom how they could ever “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.” In that adult state of uncertainty, had they all been anointed the King of Israel following David’s death, they would have refused to kill the enemies of the state. No one would order deaths without a personal hatred established!
As such, the adult Galileans would have all ended up dead and replaced as king. The threat would have been realized, rather than averted. As a result, none of them would have any life left in them … as Jesus said.
The inner child does not struggle with such instructions from heaven. The young mind has no concept of cannibalism. A young mind does not know how to tell good from evil, just as Adam and Eve had no such brain-power, prior to them eating the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of such matters.
When Jesus says to eat his flesh and drink his blood … to the inner child of the faithful … they simply trust, believe, and act. There is no thought required. They react, becoming Jesus, by extension: being the flesh for acting upon his commands; and being excited and vitalized by the feeling of euphoria they receive from acting as loyal servants who love to please.
“I’m going to eat you up!” Well, not really. Just pretend … imagination.
The reluctance of adults to allow the inner child to surface is why Jesus quoted Isaiah, saying, “And they will be taught by God.” It is also why Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) Jesus said that when adults were arguing over the legality of divorce … something of which children have no concept.
When old age sets in and adults still refuse to return to the child’s stance of “all fours,” many choose to rely more on material props. They seem almost upright as a show of safety in a world of cut-throats and thieves who take advantage of the elderly. This is how we see the lessons of Jesus’ parables focusing on adults waiting too long to regain their childlike faith in God, the Father – as told in the silo building rich man, the women without lamps filled with enough oil to last the night, the rich man who denied poor Lazarus, and the slave who wasted his opportunity by burying his talent.
There is a saying that pokes fun at how easy it is to steal from babies. In today’s difficult economic times, adults with wily minds know the elderly have much more than candy worth stealing, and they prey on their age, because their wisdom makes them as trusting as little children. The very old and very young see the love of sharing, but the majority who learn how life forces adults to stand or be run over, they grasp firmly onto that which they have fought hard to gain over the years, not thinking twice about how a business dealt that profits them costs others. Thus, the Galileans in the synagogue hearing Jesus tell them to eat my flesh and drink my blood could not see themselves regularly preying on others for their livelihoods … eating their flesh and drinking their blood, like predators.
Are we not just like those who struggled to understand Jesus’ words 2000 years ago? Do we not laugh as we careen our way through the path of life, bouncing left and then right, rather than have a childlike mind that takes the responsibilities of life seriously?
When we pray to God we drop to our knees, as a step towards that inability to walk on our own two feet. We are automatically returning to that childlike stance, looking up to the Father. We place ourselves at the mercy of God, just as a child is dependent on the love and care of a parent.
As Christian adults seeking to follow Christ, we have to let our egos give way. We have to die intellectually and be reborn Spiritually. We have to stop holding onto props that keep us materially inclined. We have to see ourselves as young servants to the Lord.