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Driving along, migraine developing, just wanting to get home. Into the silence comes a voice from the backseat. A tiny, sweet, adorable voice that I wish would never grow up. “I love you, Mama.”
Tears trickle. Is there any better thing for a mama to hear? I feel a failure – too demanding, too controlling, too impatient – and then I hear those sweet, sweet words. Who am I, Oh God, that you should give me this gentle soul to mother? And yet. And yet.
God knows exactly what He does. He gives exactly what we need. Not what we deserve; not what we want – what we need. He knows I need this gentle, loving, sweet girl to teach me how to love.
Children often grow up to be like their parents. We teach them, we guide them, and most of all we model for them – intentionally or not! But what if we tried more often to become more like them?
Have a Simple Faith
Kid’s have simple faith. While they make ask “why?” until you want to hide in the bathroom and lock the door, they don’t tend to endlessly question their belief in something – especially when their parents tell them. They just believe. (Hello, Tooth Fairy!) Certainly we must “test the spirits” and align our beliefs with Biblical truth. But Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17) Children trust. Children come to Jesus with joy, eagerness and excitement! Growing to Christian maturity is hard and complex; but faith should be simple.
Children’s love is pure and unconditional. It’s not until we get older (say, teenagers???) that we start to put conditions on our love. And let me just say, if you say you love someone but give them the cold shoulder when they make you mad, you have put a condition on your love. It may be temporary, but it’s conditional. True love is kind, and not easily angered. You can be angry without taking it out on your target. (Preaching to the choir here, friends.)
The love of children I have known matches 1 Corinthians 13 much more closely than that of most of us grown-ups:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
My daughter is the quickest person to forgive that I know. When I come to her and apologize for something (like, say, yelling?), she just says “I forgive you Mama” and cuddles in my lap. Even if I made her cry. So yeah, childlike love. When we’re faced with acting conditionally, I suggest we think about how a child would love.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” — which is the first commandment with a promise — “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
~ Ephesians 6:1-3
Ok, so kid’s don’t exactly have this one down pat. Maybe when they’re really little. Like, they can’t walk yet. But seriously, very early on a parent’s top job is to teach children obedience. More than that, a heart of obedience – the “why” behind choosing to obey. That said, children long to please their parents, especially in loving homes with parents who want the best for their kids. I love the above verse because – don’t miss this – it’s the first commandment with a promise! If you obey, it will go well with you. Why? Because parents generally (and God always) guide with wisdom, and obeying will result in safety and smart choices.
In the same way we must be obedient to God. The parent-child relationship is God’s picture of His relationship to us. God the Father, we his children. We don’t often understand is ways (if ever) and sometimes we’re just downright mad at him. But believers truly long to please the Father. I could list so many Scriptures on obedience – but that’s another blog post. Or a book.
Love to Learn
Children are so eager to learn. There’s a reason we do school when we’re young! Science backs this up. (I’m not a scientist, go look it up.) And guess what? God backs it up to.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
~ Proverbs 22:6
That doesn’t mean we’re not teachable now, though. We just have to form new patterns. Our brains can actually change – they form new pathways the more we think about a thing. It’s a habit of thinking. How do we form a habit? By doing it over and over until it become “second nature”. If you want to change a pattern of thinking, replace the thoughts with the truth: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) And this: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a)
It will take effort and might not be easy, but in time you can change your thoughts and your behaviors. Holley Gerth talks about this in her book You’re Already Amazing. She uses the science to back it up, too. Just sayin’.
Children see the wonder in everything, don’t they? My daughter brings home rocks from the playground. Yes, she does. I get a bit frustrated. BUT – I am learning to stop and appreciate them from her perspective. And guess what? I’m seeing the beauty too. Look around you. Take it all in. What sparks your interest? Study it! Google it. Go to the library, buy books, take a class. If you want to learn something new, then go for it! Approach it as a child would, and find joy in learning (even if you hated math in high school).
Kids come up with the most amazing stuff. Too often, as adults we think we’ve lost our imaginations. I think we just don’t use them. My daughter has toys and dolls and games – but she can get hours of fun out of a box and some craft sticks. Or toilet paper tubes and markers. Or rocks from the playground. She sees what I don’t see – until I stop what I’m doing, sit alongside her and dust the cobwebs from my imagination. We play Barbies or Pet Vet and it takes a lot out of me, unless I remember my inner little girl and start to make up stories, too. (Though it’s hard when I put Barbie in her kitchen and realize it’s nicer than mine.)
Read. Find your imagination again. Take a walk in nature. Read. Color (adult coloring books – yes, you DO have time for that!). Write poetry (it can be terrible!). Journal. Play with LEGOs. Write a story. Read. (Did I say read?) Or, play with a child.
No one can bounce back like a child. They can take a zillion falls on the playground and get right back up again and keep running. Their best friend can make them cry, but the next day all is forgiven. Maybe this is because they haven’t yet had the pain of repeated bruises and heartaches – but I think it’s also just in their nature.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) No matter the heartache, we can heal, and we can bounce back too. (I’m not suggesting that all pain is easy to overcome – some stuff hurts so deep it may seem impossible to heal. But there is hope; Jesus has overcome!)
Children approach so much of life with such eagerness, have you noticed? They look forward to even the little things. They anticipate. Everything is new and full of wonder. Age and wisdom temper this, often with good reason. But sometimes I think we need to shake off the blahs and get excited about life again! Take time each day for gratitude. Learn to love well. Get creative. Enjoy the small moments and the simple things.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
~ Acts 17:11
Have you ever felt that? Where you just can’t wait to dive into God’s Word? Listen, friends: I think this the same as life – because Scripture IS life! Everything is in there. Be eager to know God and his Word, and you’ll be eager for life. Just like a little child.