I have used this term over a fair period of time now, especially when praying with those who have a care or responsibility for children and their needs.
I don't know if I am the first to coin this phrase, but it has a very specific meaning for me. Working from the beginning, I take the notion that a sacrament is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. I fully believe that childhood is one such grace.
Taking it to its fullest conclusion, in the same way that all sacraments can be withheld, removed or denied - the same can be said for childhood. My wife is a child protection solicitor, and whilst she never speaks in specifics, I know that she witnesses the horror of those who would abuse children or abuse themselves of one another to the detriment of their child.ren The 'sacrament of childhood' can be taken away, withheld - robbed.
Childhood is, of course, a fact of chronology. I believe it is also a pure quality of personality that is manifest at that time. In an ordinary child from and ordinary background in ordinary circumstances, their 'childhood' resonates from them. It is to be seen in the keen appetite for the world around them, and inquisitiveness that leads them through their learning, in whatever form will suit them over time. Childhood is also seen in the purity of unrestrained emotion, good bad or malevolent! Childhood is in innocence and a lack of cynicism - or in other words, a hopefullness in all things. Childhood is about being immortal, and largely untouchable.
So, we take these qualities of being and we can readily see the hand of God in them.
As a sacramentally rooted Christian, I aspire to realise this particular outward sign once again. I wonder if it is possible to retain child-like qualities over a lifetime, proudly and conspicuously. I am not speaking of 'childishness' of course; that is something unpleasant in someone my age if perpetuated. Instead, I watch my own children or the children around me, and wonder if they are in fact administering a sacrament to me. They won't know it, but that is part of the joy of it all - but I am increasingly aware of the potential that children have to remind me how God created me, how I should aspire to behave and 'be'. I don't think that maturation is about moving away from being child-like, but more to do with self-awareness. One needn't supercede the other. Sadly, in most cases, that self-awareness is worn like a curse, robbing us of hopefulness and sheer unbridled joy. We see our warts on our noses but not the shimmering pools of our own eyes. My kids haven't noticed my nose either, but instead they see the good in me like no other person does or can. I wish I could be like that with the people I meet every day.
Child-like? Or in other words. 'God-like'