Childlike Faith

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I can’t shut up about those chubby little toddlers in the daycare down the hall. So I’m going to write about them again.

 

The newest fellow, an eight month old peanut, has been stealing all my attention lately. He’s at that first evolution of life, learning about different in this world. Learning what’s fun and what’s not, making him greedy with the building blocks in the corner. Learning how to eat solid food and how to stand. Learning how to form babble sounds into words, mimicking us from time to time. He just keeps changing, growing before our very eyes.

 

And he’s fast.

Oh God is he fast. He doesn’t walk yet, but he crawls across the room at hummingbird speed. It’s scary, really.

 

These days, when I open the gate to the play area, he turns from the supervisor and is actually astonished that I’m back again. In a thousand small, quick motions, he scampers over to me. His chin is cocked, brown eyes fixed on mine the entire time.

 

Once he reaches my feet he does this thing where he rolls back on his knees and waves his fat little arms up for me to hold him. He’s wearing a dumb grin on his little face. Like a burst of bliss in his small world.

 

There is no other place where I can hold this kind of honest affection in my arms. Where I can squeeze it and become free from my own insecurity, wallowing in the wonderfulness of being wanted.

 

And these days, I need him. Between the hallways fights and the office meetings, this little guy is saving my life, five minutes at a time.

 

And every time I hold him I think of God because, in my mind, God is a kid.

An innocent, lying on a small grassy knoll beneath a partly clouded sky, imagination alive in the contours and colors of the clouds. I like to think of Him as a little girl that is above all the frivolous things we call “adult”, too busy picking flowers in a field for her mother. Perhaps a short idealist declaring to his third grade class that, if elected president, he will give us world peace. Or, maybe, just a little toddler that doesn’t rank people by their weight or height or economic status, but just meets them at their feet with his arms wagging high, his toothy smile and dimples and babble talk, all waiting to be swept up into arms.

 

And God seems to have this likeness with kids. This quality to Him.

 

When Jesus said we needed to become like little children, I’ll admit, at first, I dithered. It seemed like blind belief. Like starry eyes and shiny objects. Quickly sold. Not worrying about the rest of world withering away in poverty and slavery and tsunamis. Like a cult. Like He was asking us to abandon all skepticism. Give trust to close-lipped authority.

 

It really bothered me until I read this from the recently passed Brennan Manning:

 

“If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don’t find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don’t cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God’s truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition.”

 

There’s a two year old getting locked into her high chair seat asking why she can’t hold her doll while she eat her sloppy joes. Because I said so whispers our drained daycarist. The little girl furrows her brow, crosses her arms, speechless as if to say what the hell does that even mean?

 

 

And you and I get that. Those answers that weren’t ever answers at all.

We still get it. We do it. We buy it. It’s all spoon fed.

 

 

We might say, they have yet to be overcome with the world. They haven’t been torn down the middle of life. Haven’t had to separate feelings from expressions, wedging walls and false selves. They are whole and proud and we love them for it. But, in a way, I think we long for what they have.

 

Our friends, our families, our pastors, ourselves, have a habit of harking on and on about what God says and what God wants. Yes, we all read the thousand year old texts, over and over, but we read with our elders’ eyes, not our own. We repeated the warnings about questioning Biblical authority, Meaning, our understanding of what Biblical authority means. Too often we think that curiosity, questions, will be the beginning of the end. We’ve grown tired, afraid, of trying at all.

And if only we thought like kids again. If only we asked where did God say that? Who said that God said that? To what people were they writing to? Why can Jesus break the Sabbath and I can’t so much as see an R rated movie without you breathing down my neck? Where does the sermon on the mount come in to play? What does it mean that all the other laws, everything in this whole wide world, hangs on the greatest commandment to love God and neighbor and self?

 

I thinks it’s time we thought through what it means to have faith like a child.

 

The importance of challenging the old doctrines, dusting them off for cracks. Throwing them into water, seeing which ones float. Reminding ourselves that the authors were humans, same as you and I, imperfect. Reacting with skepticism when ANYONE says they can speak for God.

 

Questions and doubts and challenges are the wine being poured in the new wineskins. They’re the faith like a child.

 

If you ask me, it is in the questions, in the resistance, that we will inevitably find our salvation.

 

RR

  • In a way, a child-like faith could nearly be the polar opposite of sinful temptation (maybe I’m stretching this). Children question so much of their young lives with zealous curiosity and unbreakable passion—a desire in the purest form to know Life as it should be (not the mere life we are journeying through here on this side of Heaven).

    Although they don’t escape harm in their innocent questioning, but certainly we don’t shame a child for the sharpness of the rocks they trip on. It’s not the child’s fault the rocks are sharp, is it? The child is eager to traverse those rocks, to KNOW what they ARE in way most of us “mature-folk” just take for granted.

    What else about faith do we just take for granted I wonder?

    • registeredrunaway

      I don’t think you’re stretching it at all, I think you’re spot on.

      What Manning often writes about, and what I’ve been thinking about more and more lately, is how we’ve lost our sense of Wonder. Like my friend in the daycare, we’re never Struck by surprise anymore.

      Further, like the little girl, we don’t ask the uncomfortable, seemingly “obvious” questions, anymore. We’re ashamed or afraid to do so and I’m unsure about which is worse.

      • Ford1968

        You reminded me of this:

        “The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do. We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being. Because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…”

        Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • Ford1968

    When did “God’s enforcer” become a part of the pastor’s job description? This is why I have qualms with the idea of church discipline. God is my authority, not the senior pastor. I appreciate pastors who are a partner in my spiritual life, not some imagined gatekeeper of the kingdom.

    • registeredrunaway

      I love that, “partners” in spiritual life. That is what church should be. It may not sound super impressive- but one thing I appreciate that my church does is place the pulpit on the floor instead if the stage, symbolizing are equality in coming to the table.

  • Amy

    This made me smile. I loved the image of the two-year-old with the doll and the sloppy joes. And even though my own kids are long past that stage, they still have this insatiable thirst to know *why* things are the way they are. This is fresh perspective for me on being a parent and how I can be more Christ-like in the way I answer my own kids.

    • registeredrunaway

      Thanks Amy! You should read more of Brennan’s stuff. He articulates better than most about what it really means to have a childlike faith.