“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Luke 18:17
When ever I have hear this verse taught the point is pretty much the same: we should have a child like trust. What does that even mean? It gives me a vision of children sitting around gazing up at us with trusting goo-goo eye all day. As if. Obedience? Ever known any real-live children?
Become like little children. Perhaps Jesus meant this comment more literally than we usually take it. I happen to know a thing or two about children and off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of typical behaviors:
- They bring you their boo-boos to fix
- They follow you around chattering about any little thing they can think of, just to be with you
- They ask questions – lots and lots of questions
- They test boundaries
- They look to you to show them who they are
- They sometimes have to learn things the hard way
- They like to make you laugh
- They seek you out when they are lonely, bored, restless
- They like to learn more about you and your life
- They ask more questions
- They like to show off what they’ve learned
- They want you to approve of them
- They want to share all the tiny details of their lives with you
- They must often be prodded, pushed, persuaded and sometimes even punished to behave properly
- Their love for you sometimes boils over and they have to let you know how much they love you
- They push back to learn where and how firm the boundaries are, what the motivation is, and if you can be trusted to be fair
- They need you to understand them when they mess up and forgive
Of course, not all children behave like this. Some have been hurt and have withdrawn. Some are afraid. Some children hide from the adults in their life in order to avoid criticism or punishment. If we are not careful, we may find ourselves approaching God this way. Instead of running in with mud all over to show off the frog you just found, do you approach God more like he’s an elderly relative who expects you to be well behaved, clean and sitting still?
How different would it be if you approached God like a happy child with a doting parent:
- I bring God my boo-boos to fix
- I just chatter to God in my head through out the day
- I ask God questions – lots and lots of questions
- I test boundaries
- I look to God to show me who I am
- I sometimes have to learn things the hard way
- I like to make God laugh
- I seek God out when I am lonely, bored, restless
- I like God to tell me about himself
- I ask more questions
- I like to show off what I’ve learned to God
- I want God to approve of me
- I want to share all the tiny details of my life with God
- I must often be prodded, pushed, persuaded and sometimes even punished to behave properly
- My love for God sometimes boils over and I must express it
- I push back to learn where and how firm the boundaries are, what God’s motivation might be, and to see if we can trust God to be fair
- I need God to understand me when I mess up and forgive me
I posted this list last year and Drew Downs added in a few more childish behaviors we’d probably do well to adopt:
- Following God around the house, doing what God does.
- Saying back to God what God says to us.
- Trying to figure out how to do what God does.
Of course, sometimes being childish means behaving in ways we really do need to grow out of. I‘m often struck by how similar some of my children’s behavior when they are upset or in conflict is to how we often behave with God:
- Making big messes and expecting God to clean them up for me.
- Getting into arguments over whose turn it is to sit in the fancy chair and running to God to demand that he rule in your favor.
- Getting your feelings hurt when you’re called a name and screaming loudly until God shows up to comfort you. (Be sure not to mention that name-calling was preceded by you pulling the other person’s hair.)
- Responding to discipline or denial by screaming, “you’re always mean to me! You don’t even love me!”
What would change spiritually if you did behave like a small child with God? If you were not simply trusting, but free with God? If you could be silly and excited and real with God? How would our understanding of our faith walk change if we could see it in this frame work? That we are children, young and foolish, but learning. It takes time to grow up. But before we can grow up, Jesus says we must be like little children. I bet there’s a munchkin in your life somewhere who can give you some pointers!
What are your suggestions for childish behavior we can emulate when relating to God?