Being Childlike in Front of the Father
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
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.
I recently read a blog post about being childlike before the Lord. This blogger had a great message about being still and silent when you’re in the presence of God and to cultivate that presence a lot more during the Advent season.
The blogger also went on to say that God only likes part of our childlike-ness. That our lying, and disobeying, and immaturity were things we had to avoid when embracing our childlike nature. Basically, “be like the little children, but only the good parts.”
I appreciated this blogger’s message, but part of it felt really dissonant with how I understand God, how I understand the Father.
Whenever I read or hear something that really bothers me, I’ve been pretty good about dissecting why it bothers me and figuring out where it hits in my soul. Hopefully, that helps me shift the focus from “this blogger makes me crazy and is SO wrong” to “ok, let’s think about this a little more deeply. Why does it bother you so much?” So here I am, working through why it bothered me so much in the most positive way I can.
As a parent and former teacher, I have spent a lot of time with children. Most of my teaching was with adolescents, so in some ways, I’ve spent a lot of time with the kids who most people think are the most difficult and frustrating. Now that my little guy has started crawling, ok, I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot of frustration and difficulty too. As I was reflecting about being childlike with God, I started thinking about the nature of kids. Not some Victorian Christmas scene childlike nature, but actually who they are. What makes them tick? What do I love about them? What drives me nuts?
I guess I just reflected on their whole nature, not just the pleasant parts.
And you know what? I love it all! When I was teaching, it was the toughest cases that sometimes brought me the most joy. The kids who just flat out disrespected me. I loved them because they were so honest and transparent. “This class sucks!” was hurtful at the time, but the lack of filter was something I kind of admired. I live in a world where being civilized and well-behaved are so important. The transgressing was actually kind of endearing. Even their cheating schemes and punishment evasions were something that impressed me. They were always so creative! Did I let them face the consequences of these bad choices? Sure. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t think fondly of each and every student. The kids who gave me the most trouble ended up being students that at the end of the year I was closest to and who trusted me most. Letting them be themselves without a lot of filter helped them to feel safe and feel like they belonged somewhere.
And the “good little children?” I loved them too! It was so exciting when they were celebrating getting an A or getting recognized for a service award or scholarship. I felt humbled and honored just to be a part of any of their lives. The drama, the triumphs, the frustration, the highlight reel. Seriously, I just loved the whole thing.
Now with my son, I’m getting to know the opposite spectrum of childhood. It’s work for me to love the whining and inconsolable crying and just getting into everything (wires, outlets, the dog bowl…). The cute and cuddly times are great! When he learns something new, it’s so joyful. His first tooth just came in, and it made all the teething troubles a little bit more bearable. How cute are those first teeth?? I’m learning to love the whole package and learning to love myself through the process.
I realized something so important when thinking about all the kids in my life. I didn’t love these kids because they were perfect. I loved them because they were mine.
My students were only in my life for a short period of time, but I got to share them a little with their parents, coaches, the other teachers. My son is only a little guy for such a short period of time, but I get to share him with his dad, our families, our friends.
And it really doesn’t matter at all what these kids are up to. Just the fact that they’re mine for a little bit was enough for me to love them. Not only the good parts, but the whole package.
Do I judge & hold grudges & hurt adults & love adults just a little bit conditionally? Yeah, probably.
But these kids! It’s so much easier to love it all & unconditionally.
I think that that, right there, is a glimpse into the heart of the Father. He doesn’t love pieces & parts. He doesn’t love only the best of His children. He doesn’t only love when we obey & are perfect & “good.” He loves every last bit of us.
That’s a truth that is so hard to accept sometimes but it IS truth. It’s something I need to declare. The Father shows His nature again and again and again to us. He tells us Who He is all the time: in scripture, in the love of others, in kindness, & gentleness. He reminds me all the time “I love you because I love you because I love you because I love you.” And on into eternity. He IS love. That’s His nature.
If we look at all of scripture, God is so explicit in His love for us, His desire for us, His provision for us. Even at our very worst. The Israelites bitching & moaning in the desert for forty years? He totally loved them. Israel falling into sin & disobedience? Yup, loved them there. Adam & Eve seriously messing up? Still loved them. Torturing & murdering His Son. Yes, truly, He loved us still.
Jesus is so clear in fact of His specific love of children that He’s recorded talking about it in three out of the four gospels. Any time I see something come up again and again in scripture, I pay attention. Jesus lives to reveal the love of the Father, and in those moments He’s giving us a glimpse into the Father’s heart.
I wonder: if God didn’t love us, why did He spend so much time telling us He did? Why did He act like He did? Why did He even bother? Because despite our human lens on the situation, He loves us. Again and again and again.
We are His children. He loves us because we’re His.
Should we work toward getting back to that childlike wonder and trust? Of course! That is really important to tap into. Should we work on repentance & obedience & just doing better? Yes. That would make Him proud & happy. (That makes me proud & happy too.) But don’t doubt for even a moment that He loves us any less when we’re lying & stealing & cheating & being disrespectful & just making a mess of things. He doesn’t love us any less when we’re getting into everything, throwing tantrums, disobeying, and hurting the people around us. He can’t. That’s not His in His nature.
I loved those students when they were seriously THE ACTUAL WORST. I love my son when nothing pleases him, he’s impatient, and just totally falls apart in public. I love those kids because they were mine for just a few moments in their lives. I love my son because he’s mine.
In this season when we celebrate Christ as a child, let’s embrace all that it means to be a child. If you hear or read these scripture verses, reflect on the totality of childhood, not just the highlight reel. Try to remember that His love is truly unconditional. Try to accept that God loves you simply because you are His. Because you are & He does.