Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Let the Children Come

Written by: on November 16, 2023

I love hearing stories from my friends about their kids. One story I particularly love and tell often in sermons comes from one couple introducing the story of the Bible to their, at the time, 5 year old. They were telling the story of Adam and Eve taking and eating the fruit that God had instructed them not to eat. In doing so, they emphasized that with eating of the fruit, it wasn’t just bad, it would produce a dire consequence: death. As they emphasized this point, their 5 year old sat there processing the information and after considering it, looked up at them and asked, “was the fruit juicy?”

It’s a silly story but I use it to illustrate that deep down, I think we’re all this 5 year old. There are times when the child within us comes out and we ask questions like, “was the fruit juicy?”, there are times when the child within us almost comes out but then we suppress it, and most of the time, we’ve become so good at suppressing the child within us that we don’t even realize it’s there.

Daniel Lieberman’s book, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind, touches on the idea that we have an unconscious (what the child within us is part of) that we don’t always acknowledge and yet always depend on.[1] Lieberman attributes various human functions to our unconscious. Some of these include: our nervous system and all the things our body does without thinking[2], our mental storage systems[3], our habits, and even things like focus and feeling “on”.[4] He seems to imply that as we have embraced the age of scientific rationalism, some of the “magical instinct” of our unconscious is deliberately cut off and lost, leaving us un-whole.[5] In a time when life seems increasingly difficult, Lieberman says that what we need is not to detach further from our unconscious, but to lean into our unconscious self and contends that if we can do so without being overwhelmed, we can become the people we were meant to be.[6]

This is not to say that we should always ask our “was the fruit juicy?” questions out loud, but maybe even for Adam and Eve, in order to understand what was really at stake, they needed to pause and at least consider the question. Without considering our questions and confronting our unconscious, we end up living a shallow life, trying to follow rules and norms without really knowing why we do.

I’m reminded of the “elders of the people” in Matthew 21 that challenged Jesus’s authority in the temple, asking “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”[7] Jesus answers with his own question about the baptism of John, asking “from where did it come? From heaven or from man?”[8] As the elders pondered amongst themselves, not once did they consider what they truly felt or what might be true, rather they discussed the consequences of each choice on their image to the crowds.[9]

The elders of the people, religious leaders, and pharisees embodied Lieberman’s warning against cutting off the unconscious. Their intention was good: follow the rules in order to be obedient. But they seem to have gotten lost in their own ego (maybe a pun, I’m still unsure I entirely understand what ego means in psychology). They saw their story with God as actions that were right or wrong, and as Lieberman puts it, perhaps it was too rational and they were seeing the world God had created (with them in it) in black and white when it could be filled with color.[10] In doing so, they seemed to know, in reason and language, but not experience and understand.[11]

On the surface, Christians don’t want to identify with the elders and religious leaders, we want to identify as God’s children, the ones that Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to.[12] And yet ironically, in the way we’ve built our values and worth, we, practically speaking, would much rather people see us as the elders and religious leaders than children.  Perhaps much like Jesus valued children by calling them to come, we should value the child and unconscious within us by spending more time discovering, attending to, and praying over the children within us. Perhaps by cultivating that magical spirit, we may, as Jesus says, receive the kingdom of God like a child and as a result, enter.

[1] Daniel Lieberman, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind, (Dallas: BenBella Books, 2022), 13.

[2] Ibid, 14.

[3] Ibid, 15.

[4] Ibid, 17.

[5]  Ibid, 18.

[6] Ibid, 97.

[7] Matt 27:23, ESV

[8] Matt 27:24

[9] Matt 27:25-27

[10] Daniel Lieberman, Spellbound, 23.

[11] Ibid, 222.

[12]  Luke 18:15

About the Author

Caleb Lu

7 responses to “Let the Children Come”

  1. Kristy Newport says:

    I think illustrating the unconscious with a child and a child’s childlike ways was spot on.

    I am looking up Child like in the NT:

    Matthew 18:3
    And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    It is good to have child like faith. Sometimes this is difficult for us adults.

    It is good to know how our unconscious effects the decisions/ choices we make. I believe the EGO is the gatekeeper for what the ID and SUPEREGO entertain. Sometimes we need to be carefree and enjoy life (which is typically characterized by the ID) but other times we need to abide by rules and show discretion (how the SUPEREGO functions) and it is the ego that arbitrates between the two/or compromises between the two.
    I need to go back to my psych books for a better rendering but this is what I know about EGO and how it functions. I’m attempting to pull from past learning. 🙂
    Great blog

    • mm David Beavis says:

      Kristy, in your work as a therapist, do you work with children at all? Or do you only work with adults? Was there anything from Spellbound that was enlightening for you?

  2. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Caleb,

    I’m prepping a sermon for our church the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and one of the points I intend on making is having a posture of learning from Children. Too often, we see kids as problems to be solved, or energetic beings to entertain, that we do not see them as ways God’s presence can be experienced and as teachers. Thank you for tying Lieberman’s spellbound to the playfulness of children!

  3. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Being called a child of the King is the greatest compliment that I could ever think of receiving. The innocence of a child is needed in this day and age. I wish that we could regain our focus and be more like him. How do you see wanting to be called and elder (over a child) a problem in your church?

  4. mm Becca Hald says:

    Caleb, what a great story! I love seeing the Bible through the eyes of a child. Oh to have the faith of a child! I remember my son coming to me at about six or seven to tell me he had lost a tooth. He had no idea when or where, but was convinced that he only needed to pray in order to find it. I was skeptical, but did not want to discourage him, so we prayed. Within five minutes of looking, my son found his tooth! I feel like as I have gotten older, I seek that childlike faith and outlook on life, such as wearing a tiara to our Celebration Dinner in Oxford or my love of all things Disney. I have learned so many lessons from my own children over the years and I pray as you enter into parenthood, that the Lord will speak to you through your child.

  5. Tonette Kellett says:


    I always love your posts because they are so thought-provoking. The story of the 5-year-old asking if the fruit Adam and Eve ate was juicy is priceless. I love how you tied a child’s honesty and innocence to this book.

  6. Isn’t it interesting how Lieberman said that both children and those who have lived a long life both have greater access to the unconscious? The naivity and innocence of children AND the wisdom of the elderly both rely on accessing parts of our mind that we don’t recognize. We’re so busy managing life that we don’t take time to be present and consider what’s below the surface. The spiritual implications of ignoring the unconscious are clear. Thank you for making that connection!

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