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A Review of
Like A Child: Restoring the Awe, Wonder, Joy and Resiliency of the Human Spirit
Paperback: Skylight Paths, 2014
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Reviewed by Alicia Smock
As the years pass, every person goes through the same, almost seemingly cursed, transformation. In the beginning of their lives, children want the years to fly by so that they may become grown-ups. When those years have passed and adults are wondering where the time has gone, they would do anything to turn the clock back and become a child again.
Of course, all adults are knowledgeable of the fact that one cannot build a time machine and return to childhood. However, there is a way to become like a child once again and that is to unlock the inner child-like spirit hiding within every adult. Rev. Timothy J. Mooney has explored this in further detail by researching the Bible, well-known people of the past, people he has met throughout his life, and through his own experiences, compiled in his new book Like A Child: Restoring the Awe, Wonder, Joy, and Resiliency of the Human Spirit.
On the outside, the book itself is not intimidating (only spanning around 120 pages) and is a quick read. It is also a book where one does not even need to read it in its entirety in one sitting. A reader could easily read one or two chapters of the book, put it down, and then come back to it a month later if he or she wanted to.
Now let us take a look at the book’s contents. In the book of Matthew, there is a verse that Mooney refers to throughout his book which states, “Unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). This verse is the first thing the reader sees when beginning this book. Mooney is captivated by this passage for a number of reasons, a few including, but not limited to, no theologian has really focused on this passage in depth before and the message it is conveying to believers seems near impossible. How does one become like a child?
Mooney focuses on the word like in this biblical passage, stressing in the introduction chapter that there is a difference between childlike behavior and childish behavior and creates a goal for the readers, “Our goal here is to reintroduce ourselves to childlike (not childish) behaviors and attitudes that can liberate our soul from the confines of ego-driven false selfhood” (xi). He does make a note about how everything he talks about and everything the readers will encounter while reading will not come easily or quickly. To redevelop a childlike spirit is no simple task, but the chapters following this statement are excellent stepping stones to reaching the spirit every adult once had.
Each of the twelve chapters focuses on a certain trait found in every human being, but is more definable in children. These twelve traits are what Mooney says adults must embrace if they are to regain their childlike spirit and focuses on each one in turn: wholehearted trust, humbleness, awe and wonder, innocence, desire, simple mindedness, forgiveness, being comfortable with one’s body, a sense of humor, the willingness and desire to play, the ability to see beauty inside and out, and transforming one’s soul from that of an adult to that of a child.
As mentioned, a reader could easily read one section and then come back to read the next one a few weeks later; this is due to how Mooney set-up his chapters. Each chapter begins with one or two quotes pertaining to the trait the reader will encounter from a multitude of famous people (including artists, theologians, and many others) or passages from the Bible. Following these quotes are two stories: one being a story from the Bible and the other being a story from Mooney’s own life, whether it was something his family experienced or an experience shared by someone else during one of his church services. Following each of the stories is an in depth look as to how someone portrayed the main trait of the chapter and tips as to how the readers can obtain said trait.
The end of the chapter can catch readers by surprise in a good way. Mooney set aside a couple pages at the conclusion of each chapter for practices the reader can do on his or her own. One does not need to complete the practices as soon as he or she is done reading the chapter. They can be saved for a later day, for some of them take time (some requiring about 20 minutes while others a few days’ time). When one has the time, most of these practices can be done on his or her own while others require a group of people.
Upon finishing the book, the final chapter is not, per say, a trait, but rather preparation for the trek the reader is about to endure if he or she wishes to find his or her inner child once again. And if one wishes to read further into finding one’s inner child, Mooney has a page of suggestions for further reading.
As a whole, I would highly recommend this book to any adult who is struggling with the daily stresses life has to offer and wishes to return to childhood; however, I must also be honest with future readers that if any adult out there already has a childlike spirit, this book may not help as much as one might like. For as long as I can remember, my spirit has been so much like a child’s and, while reading, I found that I already housed many of the traits Mooney talked about. True, the remaining traits that I have not acquired were very insightful to read about and, by completion of the book, I discovered that I still have a ways to go before completing my transformation from my serious adult spirit to my past childlike spirit. Perhaps I should then say that this book is insightful and can speak to one who already has a childlike spirit, but wishes for a complete transformation and can speak to those who dream of days long past when the world was simple and every experience of everyday was amazing.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com