Recently my 3 year old son got in trouble, as he’s prone to do, because he wanted to do something and when I told him no, he pitched a fit. When I disciplined him he ran off into his room, slammed his door, and started to cry. I followed him and opened the door to find him with a huge stuffed Barney covering his face and him in tears. His temper tantrum didn’t work to change the outcome of my decision and he found himself sitting on his bed for a little while until he calmed down. Later as he came out of his room he ran up to me, his eyes still a little damp with tears, threw his arms around my neck and said, “Mama, I lub you so much! You are my bestest fwend!”
Parenting is hard. It means making decisions that our children may not like or understand. It means sometimes being the bad guy when really you want to be the good guy. When I think about the difficulties I have sometimes with my own children, I am left in awe at the decisions that God has to make when it comes to His children-us.
It’s easy to be upset with God when we don’t get what we want. We may feel like He has abandoned us or that maybe He even doesn’t love us. We wonder where He is when we are in the solitude of our rooms with tears streaming down our faces. It’s hard to understand His ways when what He says no to is what our hearts desire more than anything. It can be challenging to continue to have faith.
Christ teaches us that we are to have faith like little children (Matt 18:2-4). Many people understand this to mean that we should just trust God with no reservations or questions. But is this how children really are? What does it mean to have faith like a child?
When I began thinking about this I made a list of attributes of children-
- They are often rambunctious; they love to play, to get messy, to sing, and to dance.
- Sometimes they don’t stop to think before they act. They can be impetuous.
- Many of them love to get dirty- a mud hole is definitely their friend!
- They want to hear the same stories over and over again.
- They often fight bedtime and many other things that are good for them.
- They can be picky- from the food they eat to the clothes they wear, they are often persnickety.
- They ask questions… so many questions. Many times they ask the same question over and over again even though the answer never changes. In fact, they often ask hoping the answer will change.
- They trust their parents to tell them the truth.
- They cry and sometimes they pitch fits. They can be inconsolable when they don’t get their way.
- Their feelings are delicate. They can be built up very easily but they can also be broken just as easy.
- They long for attention and for interaction with those they love.
- They are dependent upon their parents for all their needs.
- They can be openly defiant at times.
- They trust their parents and those they love to do what is right.
- They love unconditionally.
If we are to have faith like little children does this mean that we are called to have simple faith? I don’t think so. When we look at the attributes of children we see just how complex they truly are. To have faith like a child means so much more than being passive and blindly following. It means engaging God in a real relationship. It means that sometimes we will be so happy with God that He is our best friend but other times we will be so angry we may even pitch a small fit. It means that we will question Him at every turn, but we will learn and grow by doing so.
Having faith like a small child means that we see that we are dependent upon God for all our needs and like our children trust us, we trust Him to provide for us. It means that we long for His love and His attention and we feel sad when we don’t feel like we are getting enough of that.
Sometimes it means we are defiant… challenging God to show us what He means or why what we want isn’t good for us. But while we may be defiant and sulk over not getting what we want, it also means that we love Him unconditionally just as our children truly love us even when we don’t give them what they desire. It also means that God will love us even though our behavior is not ideal.
Anytime I think of this particular bible passage I am reminded of Leo. I think about how even in his disappointment and his anger at not getting what he wants, he still continues to love me and to trust me. When he is ready he comes to me with his arms stretched open and throws them around my neck and clings to me. He tells me he loves me and that I am his best friend. And I am there waiting patiently for him just as God is waiting there for us eager to accept our humble love and affection.
This is the type of childlike love and faith that we are called to have for God. It is ok to question and it is ok to be upset when we don’t get what we want or we don’t understand God’s ways; but we are called to imitate our children in love and humility and to cling to Him even during these times. We are called to wipe our tears and throw our arms around Him knowing that He loves us more than anything and that He always wants what’s best for our hearts and our souls.
“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”