When we were very young, my brother and I got up one early Christmas morning to see what we got for Christmas. Now, mind you, our parents were still sound asleep. But did that stop us? Did we go and wake them up first? No! And boy we had a blast, I remember one toy in particular. It was a snow cone maker. It was shaped in the form of a snow man, and came with all the ingredients you’d need to add to your shaved ice for snow cones. But we couldn’t figure out how to get the ice in so we could make some snow cones. We did, however, discover the flavor packets. They were delicious, and sticky. I bet you can guess how Mom and Dad reacted when they came into the living room to see two boys with toys scattered everywhere and sticky from snow cone syrup.
There is a distinct difference between childlike and childish! And it all has to do with Light! Childish behavior craves secrecy and the cover of darkness. Childlike behavior shines in the light!
Look at our lesson today in Ephesians 5:8-19:
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.
Here, St. Paul is exhorting (one of my favorite words) the Ephesians to embrace three realities if we are going to avoid childishness and embrace childlikeness.
- First, WALK. One of the greatest tricks the devil ever played on humanity was to reduce Christianity to a mere ideology. As much as we may try, we cannot seperate what we believe in our heads from what we do with our hands. Children instinctively get this. They think something and then they do it. To be sure, their inexperience may mean they think then do something foolish, or dangerous, or ever wrong. But they act on what they think. They haven’t yet learned how to compartmentalize their lives into what can only become a sort of dysfunction and divorce of saying one thing and doing another. And make sure you are walking in Light so you don’t stumble!
- Second, AWAKE. More and more, I am convinced that this metaphor of awake or asleep is key to embracing an Orthodox lifestyle. And this wakefulness is always attended by Light; the Light of the Person of Jesus Christ. Over and over again the writings of the Fathers in the Orthodox classic of spirituality, The Philokalia, dwell on the importance of wakefulness or awareness of the Light. This Light the Fathers speak about has everything to do with living our lives fully aware of reality, not the delusions that cloud our minds and drive us to darkness. And the command to be AWAKE is never a suggestion, but an imperative.
- Finally, BE FILLED. This childlike Walking; this perpetual AWAKE, is made possible by, paradoxically, an act of RECEIVING. All of my proactive and purposeful actions of living an Orthodox lifestyle flow from my willingness to BE FILLED with the Holy Spirit. It would be “childish” to reduce this filling of the Spirit to some merely emotional state or self-centered and self-righteous notion that this filling is to make me “happy” or “powerful.” The childlike embrace of the Spirit-filled life comes from my humility in receiving from my loving God He Himself so that I may be a “fit habitation” for God.
Today, all the spiritual disciplines of the Orthodox Faith are meant to transform your life into a Walking, AWAKENED, and Spirit-Filled childlike life of joy and peace. This reordering of your priorities, actions, thoughts, and perspective can’t be accomplished any other way than walking the Path of being Orthodox on Purpose.