Like many a good, or bad, Boomer, I occasionally listen to music from the old days. One song reminds me that I argued with friends about which song was “the best.” Another makes me tear up with memories of laughter with a beloved friend long dead. Still another conjures a long drive on a magically sweet spring day.
Recently as I listened to songs I knew in my late twenties, I felt a surprising stabbing heartache for the young man I was: passionate, playful, hopeful, cynical, competitive, funny, and – this was the surprise – innocent in so many ways. I felt a parental desire to shield my younger self from coming wounds and grief from what I hadn’t yet learned about my workaholism, my family of origin, my marriage, myself.
At the same time, I know that my greatest blessings came later, but those blessings are told in other songs.
Still feeling an ache for the sorrows I hadn’t yet imagined three decades ago, I pondered the nature of innocence and its cousin: faith. Faith, of course, is not limited to playpens, sunsets, and spring days. And certainly we must distinguish between emotional and spiritual innocence, but the memory made me wonder: is it possible to have faith or hope without innocence? Is it possible to have faith – even tried, tested, and true – without the risk and pain that seem to be its irritating and inevitable companions? Jesus said something about not being able to enter the kingdom of God unless we have the faith of the innocent.
As I listened to song after song, I wished I had been younger and wiser. And I wondered: if I am alive in twenty years, what will I see when I look back at myself today? In what ways might I still be naïve? And how much of that is a lack of wisdom, and how much an ingredient of faith?
How am I still innocent? How are we always innocent? How often do life’s tragedies and absurdities knock us off balance? And, even so, how much of our innocence is necessary to faith, hope, and love?