A surprisingly wholesome trend on Instagram recently got me thinking about my inner child. Essentially, the trend has the content creator show a video of themselves in the present day, saying something like "Remembering that when I say mean things to myself, I'm really saying mean things to them…" and then showing a photo of themselves when they were a child.
It's a reminder that we carry our inner child with us, all the time. As Madeleine L'Engle said, "I am still every age I have ever been."
There is not an official scientific or biblical definition for "inner child," but I like this one: "The inner child is the human's childlike aspect, and it draws from everything that you have learned and experienced as a kid before puberty. This inner child signifies a semi-independent unit that subordinates to your conscious mind and being aware of it can help you improve your life. Your inner child is your essence, the aspect of your awareness that is naturally innocent, uncomplicated and playful."
Our inner child is the most untouched part of us. We always stay innocent at our core, untouched by the world. It's a gracious gift from God that we can access this innocence at any time and that it stays protected.
So, getting in touch with our inner child can be a profoundly spiritual practice! And our childhood hobbies and dreams are a direct way to do that.
Not only do our hobbies refresh us and help us get in touch with our inner child, but often these unhindered passions are put on our hearts to help the people around us.
Too often, we give up our childhood dreams because they're not "realistic." But what if they were? What if you could love your younger self by going after those dreams that still mean so much to you?
Letting yourself indulge in your childhood hobbies could very well be the match to reignite your life's passions–and help the people around you in ways God has made you for.
1. Your Childhood Interests Reflect the Most Authentic You
Before you worried about money, your reputation, or your future, you were a kid with dreams.
You wanted to become the next hero, the next great scientist, the next famous singer. Because money wasn't an issue, you let yourself dream of occupations and purposes that maybe aren't as "practical" or "realistic" but that you deeply saw the value in.
Maybe you loved playing in the mud. Maybe you played doctor or teacher. Maybe you wrote fantasy stories about life-size rats who storm castles and save kingdoms like my childhood next-door neighbor did.
Because you didn't have responsibilities like you do now, there were little to no obstacles to you being your authentic self with authentic dreams. (Hopefully, you had this space to some degree. I know some people were forced to grow up too fast—but God can redeem this too).
I'm not necessarily saying that if, when you were younger, you pretended to be a Power Ranger, that means your true self lies in becoming a Power Ranger. But what did being a Power Ranger mean to you? What force of good did you wish to be in the world, to enact your God-given dominion over?
Or maybe you wanted to be a vet when you were younger, so you played pretend with animals all the time, but then you realized that learning the science necessary to become a vet would never be in your wheelhouse. But what did caring for those animals do to you? Where in your life now can you cultivate more times of being nurturing or playful to get back in touch with that side of you?
We're conditioned to squash the less pragmatic parts of ourselves because of the very visceral reality that we have to earn our keep in this world. But if we truly have no worries, like Jesus assured us of, what could be possible for us? Who could we allow ourselves to be?
2. Your Most Authentic You Reflect God's Character the Most
We were made in God's image. And God's image somehow allows us to not only find deep joy in being authentic but to also help others in the process!
Because you're the most unfiltered you as your childhood self, the gifts and interests God gave you back then are the ways you can help the world most today. They bring opportunities to not just be the most aligned in your purpose, but most aligned in what brings you joy. God is just so kind that way.
It's very cute and maybe a little laughable when little kids excitedly proclaim that they're going to be the next president, or superhero, or queen. But notice how, as lofty as these dreams are, they aren't driven by ego. They are driven by a deep desire to contribute to the world in amazing ways!
Jesus told us, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). This is because children are humble, innocent, generous, and trusting. They have a natural desire to help those around them.
Even though God could not be more "adult" and "responsible" (he is God, after all) – all of these characteristics are reflected in who he is and who Jesus is too.
Letting yourself be your most authentic self leaves room for God's character to be reflected the most because you were made in his image.
3. Childhood Hobbies Help You Care for Yourself (and Therefore Others)
Again, I won't claim that hobbies are always practical. But they are always worth it, as they will help you to experience joy in being who God made you to be, so you can experience him even deeper!
Think of how God uses our pastimes to show us himself:
God created food for us to enjoy, to show us that he is sweet and that he makes life full of flavor.
God created art for us to enjoy, to show that he is intentional with us and to show us that there is safety in the beautiful world around us.
God created sports for us to enjoy, to be in touch with the power of our bodies and the relaxation that comes with focusing on being present.
When you took up a hobby as a child, it was more than likely because it brought you joy, not because it earned you anything. And I would bet that if you took up those same hobbies – or an adult version of them – they would bring you joy again.
In every one of your childhood delights, there was God, teaching you about himself. And the more we can reach into this deep well of delight, the more we can give to others.
Not only do our childhood hobbies and dreams bring us joy, they often involve BIG visions of how we can help others, too. Like the Japanese principle of ikigai, your childhood dreams can be the key to not just what you love, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for–but what the world needs, too.
So, reignite those dreams! Get out that journal, be brave and record yourself singing, if only for yourself. Buy that Lego set so you can feel what it's like to build again. Start with doing what you love without judgment, and the rest will follow. Your inner child will thank you for it, and so will your future self!
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Evgenyatamanenko
Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is a former editor at Crosswalk.com. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earring Instagram and Etsy for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.