I don’t know about you, but there is nothing in me that wants religion. I want authenticity. I want it from other people, from myself, and most definitely in my relationship with God. I want the thrill of knowing the God who created everything and loves all these billions of people whether they know it or not. I tend to get mired down in the difficulties of life, in the expectations we are all trying to meet and so the suck-fest of feeling like we’re never quite on track. So, from time to time I have to take stock of where my heart is and get back to the basics. I need refreshing and a renewal of love, purpose, clarification, and peace.
I was asking God today on my way to work today, “How do you want me to love you? How can I live in a way that best honors you and brings you joy?” I believe there are many answers to this and yet, in my car this afternoon, the one thing that was impressed in my mind was that Jesus asked us to come to his kingdom with faith like a child. I started thinking about what that really meant. Here’s the verse that came to mind:
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ” Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” ”
~ Luke 18:16-17 ~
Say what?? But I’ll bet those kids had never even studied TULIP or DAISY!!! How could children, who couldn’t do anything for themselves,probably couldn’t read very well yet, and didn’t know how to tell other people their testimony (not that there’s anything wrong with that)..how could they be fit for heaven? And how do we get back there? By trusting in God. For everything.
Faith means absolute trust. What does it look like, as an adult, to trust in God like a child trusts in their parents? As an adult who has bills, stress, responsibility, temptations..how do I live with a child-like faith? I would say by having absolute assurance that I am a part of God’s family. Kids in a loving family feel safe. They know that their parents will always try to give them the very best. They trust they will be loved, cared for, and never abandoned. Even when parents lay down rules, or deliver consequences, the child knows they are loved. I never distrusted my parents growing up. I may have been the worst child ever (ok,maybe just in my county), but my behavior didn’t change the fact that they loved me. I always believed in their character and their devotion to me as their daughter. So to trust God like a child means that I need to daily be doing life, day by day, in the reassurance that I can trust God as my father (protector, care taker, boo-boo kisser, defender, proud Papa, worried dad, head of my household, etc.). He says he is devoted to me and my well-being. We are family, and though I can hurt him with my indifference, abandon him to chase other loves, or act like I don’t know him at times, he will always be my Father and I find enormous comfort in that. He isn’t distant. He cares when I’m hurt. He cares about my character. He wants me to go to him with my problems, help me fix them, and love me through them. Because he knows best, he also wants me to obey him. He wants my trust. My absolute, unwavering, child-like trust. Not in my own capability, but in his.
Another thing I think of in regards to being child-like is my self-image and my perception of others. Kids are not egotistical. Not early on. They just are who they are. They will play with anyone. They trust others. It takes years for kids to even fathom what it means to have different skin color, or to figure out who of their friends live in a better or worse neighborhood. They have been adored and encouraged. Their parents’ love, again, enables them to see themselves as valuable and treasured. This is how God sees us. ALL of us. We are, unfortunately, taught to give value to those who fit a certain mold, and trash the rest. What if I went through life feeling just as loved as a little kid? What if I was able to treat others as if they were amazing and special, too? I’m not saying it’s easy to unlearn years of self-evaluation and judgment..but what if I made it a point to pray to be more like a child in how I loved myself and others?
Innocence. How it hurts when someone deceives us or hurts us on purpose! I’ll admit, kids learn early to be conniving and that sucks. There is still an innocence present, though. I remember the days before everything was tainted with “that’s what she said.” To be honest, it’s funny sometimes. But I think God wants his kids to be innocent in the way they live their lives..to operate with integrity, sincerity, and good intentions. We should always want to do the right thing.
It pleases God, and it makes the world a nicer place. Seriously. That’s not to say that we let our lives be ruled by others’ opinions of us. It just means that as far as we are able, we operate out of a heart that loves the Lord and we do our part not to do wrong. Yes, we will fail. But God looks at the heart and knows we are trying.
One area I think I’ve already been changed in is my acceptance of the fact that..I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING!And you know what? I’m ok with that! Kids are inquisitive..and teachable! They don’t have it all figured out and that’s okay! They are surrounded by other people who are learning, too! I want to always be open to what God is teaching me, even if it turns what I thought before into crazy-talk. God doesn’t expect us to understand everything about him. He will forever be our teacher, and he is patient and faithful. He has also given us his word and we should read it..to get to know him even better and learn more about who he is and how he loves us. I don’t know how much I value fancy theology anymore and am more enamored with learning to be the kind of person who loves well and pleases God. I’m weary of people fighting within the family of God because they claim their knowledge is better than somebody else’s. It’s no fun and it ruins friendships. Just do you. Grow and learn who God wants YOU to grow up to be. Don’t make others conform to your ideas or what God is teaching you. Share it, if it’s awesome, and then trust that your friends can reason stuff out for themselves and in their own time. Plus, you might even think differently after awhile. I certainly am a different Christian than I was even two years ago. Some of that is wonderful. Some isn’t. But it’s life and I am not done growing yet.
The last aspect I want to explore is the WONDER of being a child. Everything is big, awesome, and exciting when you’re a kid. We lose so much of that as we “mature”. When everyone is stressed, disappointed, or worried about their image, sometimes it’s hard to just have fun, be silly, and really ENJOY the life that God has given us. I know we, practically, have jobs and bills and children and a million other things to worry about, but to trust God means to not be CONSUMED with the worries of this world. Be responsible, if you must, but remember to do things that bring life, love, and laughter to your own life and to others. Make a great meal and invite your friends. Drive to the beach and watch the sunset (sucks for you, Oklahoma). Make chocolate chip cookies and invite me over. Draw. Create. Meditate in the cool grass. Tell a joke. Bring someone flowers. Chase butterflies.Throw yourself or your spouse and awesome birthday party. Have a sleep-over. Ride a rollercoaster. These things bring joy to us bring joy to God because they are his gifts to us, and we are gifts to one another. If we just plod through life, we miss it. We can check off the “church” box, but who cares if it’s just another responsibility. When we enjoy the places and people God has gifted us with, we are reminded of what’s truly important..the same things that have been important since childhood. Trust, love, learn, grow, laugh, befriend. Wish. Hope. Believe. Be nice. Be accepted and celebrated. Accept and celebrate others.
There are many things else we could explore or debate, but I am just starting to dig into how I want to love God and how he wants to love me.
I will end with a quote from Brendan Manning.
“To believe, deeply, as Jesus did, that God is present and at work in human life is to understand that I am a beloved child of this Father and hence; free to trust. That makes a profound difference in the way I relate to myself and others, It makes an enormous difference in the way I live. to trust Abba, both in prayer and life, is to stand in childlike openness before a mystery of gracious love and acceptance.”