“What is that?” Paula asked me.
“Oh, that’s a stuffed Jackalope”, I replied. “They’re found only in this part of the country. I'm pretty sure they’re a cross between a Jack Rabbit and an Antelope.”
Paula looked at me with a little bit of trepidation, but it was time to go so we left the shop and got back on the road with Frank and Deb and the kids, starting our drive up the winding state highway that led to Mt. Rushmore. About half way up the incline, Paula leaned forward from the back seat and asked if the Jackalope was a real animal. With straight faces, both Frank and I assured her that they were the genuine thing and Frank told some story about how they were genetically engineered earlier in the 20th Century.
After a couple of minutes, I couldn’t hold my laughter in any longer and found myself giggling hysterically. Paula looked at me, and I knew in that moment that I had gone too far. Paula had trusted me that I would tell her the truth when she asked about that funny looking little animal. She had a trusting spirit, and is what we typically call “naïve” in our culture. As a general rule, being called “naïve” is not a positive trait that we aspire to as adults. It’s OK for kids to be naïve, but as we grow older, we are expected to know better.
I came across an article last week that brought the memory of the Jackalope back to my mind and caused me to re-examine naivete. The focus of the article is a concept called “second naivete” which refers to the point where we gain a more mature insight to the unquestioned beliefs that we had as children. It reminds us that the word is derived from the Latin word for “natural”, describing "one who shows absence of artificiality…or has no hidden agendas or duplicitous motives." In the words of the author, it is “the recognition that the story we continue to discover is far bigger than we know how to tell.” It allows us to “return to the unhindered sincerity of a child.”
I thought about that as I thought about my relationship with my sister and brothers. For much of my life, I was never willing to be completely honest with any of them. I would just put on my “Mark mask” and go about my business…smiling and nodding. I was who I thought they wanted me to be. I was anything but “natural”. And then things changed. I got into trouble and my attitude to my siblings changed.
I went through a season of extreme self-centeredness where I allowed my childhood love and acceptance for my family to be replaced by a judgmental attitude and a self-imposed exile away from them. Much in the same we do as we move from childhood to adulthood, my perspective of my family was tainted by a critical spirit. Because they didn’t fit my definition of what a “Christian” should be, I turned my back on those relationships. And I found myself justifying my decision by using “selective” portions of Scripture that reinforced my separation.
But thankfully, I’ve come to the place in my life where I enjoy being naïve. Not in the culturally defined sense that would describe me as being simple or credulous. Rather, in the sense that I’ve returned to the “natural” state…the state I was designed for which is to simply love, not judge.