When young children play, they seem lost in their own perfect worlds, where good always triumphs, the prince always saves the princess and Matchbox cars resurface from pileups unscathed.
Nothing can disturb this utopia, except perhaps occasional potty breaks or Mom’s call for a snack. Kids don’t care which country may or may not develop nuclear capabilities. They don’t worry if Chicago gets overlooked in the bid for the Olympic Games. And most of them probably didn’t celebrate Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The fact remains, children are most concerned with their immediate needs and pursuing the simple joys of life. Especially in affluent American society, they blissfully accept the food and shelter their parents provide. The weight of worldwide worries fails to burden their tiny shoulders. They stick to worrying about issues encroaching upon their immediate spheres of existence.
I might be wrong, but I doubt many children approach their moms saying, “Mother, I noticed the paint on the back fence has begun to chip; shouldn’t we fix that?”
As we grow older, there comes a time when such concerns seem to become more important, and often, those concerns validly occupy our thoughts.
Christianity calls us to a certain awareness and empathy for global issues. We should be concerned about national and worldwide problems. We should work to do all we can to help others in need, whether or not they claim American citizenship. At that point, retreating into our own utopia becomes inappropriate; it is the joy we cultivated in that realm as children that we must carry with us into a scarred world.
When Jesus admonishes his followers not to worry in his ever-preached Sermon on the Mount, he does not advocate apathy. Rather, he promotes the balance between burdens and goals all Christians must strive to reach.
We must not ignore needs around us, and we should proactively seek solutions to issues we can address. But eventually, we hit the limit of our human capabilities, leaving nothing left to do but pray. The sense of drive and responsibility, coupled with helplessness, resulting from this charge sometimes squashes the innocent joy of our childhood naivety. We become worry-laden warriors, carrying crosses much heavier than we were meant to bear.
Life, on its own, isn’t easy. Sometimes Christianity doesn’t seem to simplify matters.
Jesus never promised his followers a painless experience, but he did promise to walk with us through it. Even when the world crumbles around us, Christians reach for a joy from beyond this world. When life gets hard, we reach for the comfort of a risen savior.
In a sense, we never have to leave that childhood utopia where our adventures always ended neatly and just in time for dinner. Because no matter what concerns plague our day-to-day existence, we know a magnificent feast awaits with our Holy Father just beyond the horizon.