Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.
Luke 18:15-17 (ESV)
We have all heard this scripture quoted in Church a hundred times, but for most of us, it bares very little affect on how we pursue God. We hear the speaker exhort us to have faith like a child and we call out "amen", maybe even give a shout. But that's the end of it. Well, what if Jesus meant what He said?
What if being like a Child is not just a good idea, but mandatory? Well, I guess we better understand what it means, huh?
Here are a couple of reflections on what I think it means to be "like a child".
1. Children Believe Anything Is Possible
The other day, my daughter was running from her younger sister, and she crashed into the kitchen counter, smashing her toe pretty roughly. As expected, she wobbled over to where I was sitting, screaming at the top of her lungs, demanding that I punish her sister for chasing her. Calmly, I took her face in my hands and I said the same thing I always say when she hurts herself. I said, "Olivia, would you like to pray?"
After a quick nod on her part, she began to repeat after me, "Jesus, please heal me."
I gave her a kiss on the forehead and I asked her, "Does it still hurt?"
This is a regular occurrence in our household. Olivia hurts herself, she comes to me in a panic, I tell her God will fix it, and she lets him.
Can you imagine what your life would be like if you approached God with the kind of confidence my daughter does? If every single time you came before God, you expected Him to hear you? If every time you prayed, you anticipated an answer? Life would never be the same.
Faith does not mean understanding the mechanics of the miraculous or being able to articulate the intricacies of God's nature. It means trusting that God will be who He says He is and do what He promises to do.
2. Children Are Helpless
If you have ever had a toddler, go ahead and move on to the next point. You know exactly what I am going to say here. As I type, my one year old is trying to pull her doll's t-shirt onto herself... as pants. She is standing right in front of me, trying to force her chubby little legs through this tiny shirt's armholes, face scrunched up in agonizing concentration, yelling over and over again, "Dada, help! Help! I want my pants!"
I'd provide photo evidence, but I don't want to be judged.
Helplessness is a primary part of a toddler's existence. Don't get me wrong. They don't know they are helpless! They think they are independent. But let's look at the facts. She is going to stand here for another ten minutes trying to force her "pants" onto her body before she will undoubtedly lay down on the rug and fall fast asleep, the struggle completely forgotten.
Despite their determination for independence, toddlers spend most of their struggle crying out for help and running to Mommy and Daddy for assistance. I have to help Anastasia do everything. Without me she cannot put her shirt-pants on, she cannot make her dinner or pour a glass of juice. Without me she cannot peel her beloved bananas or understand the words of her favorite book. For goodness sake, the kid can't even wipe her own butt!
Do I mind? Not one bit. She is my daughter, and it brings me joy to peel her banana and pour her juice and help her onto the couch. I love to kiss her booboo's and braid her hair and help her blow her noise. (I won't lie about the diapers though. Sister needs to figure her life out).
My point? Despite all of the things she is learning to do for herself, she still needs me. And more importantly... I am here.
Let that sink in.
3. Children Understand Grace
This weekend, my daughters put some real work into finding my last nerve. I can't even with them sometimes. There was more hitting, slapping, kicking, food throwing and name calling in those two days than there has been in probably the last month. It was a rough experience for everyone. But I noticed something interesting in the midst of it.
My daughter's are not particularly afraid of me.
Olivia knows that when she slaps her sister so hard that I can hear it from the other room, she's going to get in trouble. And Anastasia knows that when she throws her food on the floor five seconds after I hand it to her, I am not going to be happy about it. And yet they do it. And what's more, after they do it, they do not distance themselves from me.
Ok, yeah, we defy God too. I know it. You know it. And let's stop pretending that Jesus doesn't know it. He knows it. We sin, but our typical response is to either immediately start desperately reminding God of His promise to forgive us, or to distance ourselves from Him until we feel enough time has passed for us to return home. Even for many of us who don't distance ourselves, there's often this little voice in the back of our heads that wonders what we need to do to get back to where we were. As time goes on, it gets quieter and we draw near again...but for a moment, even if only a brief one, we feel as though our mistakes have cost us something.
Yeah, kids don't do that. My daughters know that their decisions will have consequences. They know that they won't like those consequences. They know that my wife and I will likely be the distributor of those consequences. And yet, after their time out, spanking, or obnoxiously thorough lecture, their immediate response is to hug us, give us kisses, tell us they love us, and want to play with us.
My kids, both under four years old, understand that their failures do not cost them us.
Children understand that discipline and distance are not the same thing. (Obviously there are many children in abusive situations where this is not true. I am referencing children in healthy homes.)
4. Children Don't Need To Understand Everything
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter began asking to go visit her Grandfather. Asking who she meant, my wife and I realized she was referring to her great-grandfather who recently passed away. Like most Christian parents, I told her simply, "Grandpa is with Jesus". To which she boldly responded, "So? Let's go. Jesus loves me."
As I imagine most of you would have, I laughed, and then I stood there for a moment, completely lost for words. Eventually, I told her the only thing I could think of. I told her, "We can't go to where they are right now. But one day."
Her response? "Ok".
She wen't back to playing with her dolls.
If you have a toddler, you know the irritating power of the word "why". They ask it about everything! They want to understand the world! And we can't really be upset with them, because its kind of our job to teach them the world. But boy... that word losing its beauty after you've heard it four thousand times in an hour. But here's the thing. When my daughter asks "why is the sky blue", she is not actually trying to understand the complicated relationship between the earth's atmosphere and the sun's light. Nor is she attempting to get clarity on the chemical makeup of oxygen and nitrogen so that she can understand their part in the distribution of light and color. No! She just wants to understand the way I see the world, so that she will know how she should see the world.
This is a both a powerful and dangerous responsibility. One that far too many of us abuse or take lightly. But imagine if you lived your life with the sole goal of understanding the way God sees the world so that you can adapt to His paradigm?
Imagine if you stopped focusing on the details of creation, and instead focused on how God looks at it? If you gave up your pursuit of breaking down the mechanics of signs and wonders, and instead just decided to see what God sees and to love what God loves and to believe what God believes?
Would things change for you?
Imagine if you stopped trying to prove that there is more to things than God says there is?
5. Children Prioritize Relationship
Most mornings, the first thing Olivia says is, "Good morning, Daddy". The second thing she says is, "I want my Mommy."
Not "I'm hungry" or "Ugh, I had the worst dream". No, the first thing she does almost every day is choose us.
Its simple, but its so beautiful. If you spend time around small children, you will realize a few important things about them. First... they have way too much stuff! My kids have so many toys that my wife and I regularly have to stop and discuss whether it would be worth the crying to throw everything away. No joke. An entire corner of our living room (my wife will be so proud that I didn't say front room *eye-roll*) is nothing but their dolls and cars and toys so unidentifiable that I wont give it a try. And their room? I won't even shame myself by telling you what their room looks like. But here is what I will say: despite owning more than is responsible to let them own, their greatest joy comes from us.
Anastasia's deepest laughs happen when I blow raspberries on her stomach, not when she combs her baby doll's hair. Olivia's widest smile is always the result of my wife or I telling her how pretty she looks, not from opening the newest toy we've bought her. Do they love their toys? More than they probably should. But they always. choose. us.
Like children, we have been given so much more than we could ever ask or deserve. If God had stopped at grace alone, we would be more than prosperous. But He didn't. He gave us everything. Freedom. Righteousness. Power. Glory. Favor. Authority. More than we could ever need. However, unlike children, when we look at the plethora of "things" in our possession, and compare it to the relationships we so desperately need, most of us choose things.
Is freedom wrong? Um...no. Its beautiful. So is power. So is favor. So is everything else God has given us... but is it worth more than He is? Worth more than one another?
No. No is the answer.
There are so many things that being a parent has reinforced in my faith and in my personal life, but more than anything else, the thing I have learned from my kids is this: It is OK to let God love me. And I want to close this by encouraging you to learn the same thing.
No matter what you are going through, or what you have done to deserve God's displeasure, it is OK to let Him love you. You were made to be loved, and your circumstances do not change that. So forgive yourself for what you need to forgive yourself, so that you can embrace the forgiveness He has already freely offered you.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus said that the kingdom had to be received like a Child. I don't believe that He meant that we had to be immature or that we had to be clueless. I think He meant that we had to just accept that what He says is true, rely on Him with our whole being, and choose Him above all else. You know... the way a child would.
P.s., I was right. Anastasia is currently laying half way on the couch, fast asleep, covered up by a hat.
If you have children, I would love to hear what they have taught you about what it means to seek God. Please share in the comment section below.