Like a Child, Part 1: “I Fight You”

Like a Child

Matthew 18:2-5 (2)He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. (3)And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (4)Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (5)And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (NIV)

Luke 18:16-17 (16)But Jesus caled 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. (17)Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (NIV)

Why is that God wants us to be like children? What is it about growing up that separates us from being the kind of people that God wants us to be… the kind of people who “receive” His kingdom in ways that allows us to enter fully into His love?

I look at my children, as they grow, and learn, and strive to be “big”… and wonder why they want to be so much like us… when God just wants us to me so much more like them.

Whether they recognize it or not, they are so in love with everything He does… and every response, every bit of wonder, love, fear and doubt that they experience is so clear to see… so willingly shared. They are so vulnerable, so teachable, so desperate to learn and so quick to take joy… and so infinitely flexible when it turns out that the world doesn’t work as they’d expected.

So maybe it is okay to be a bit childlike, and maybe it’s better to be teachable than to be wise.

This piece is the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series on what it means to have “faith like a child”.

Part 1: “I Fight You”

I must say that I love the honesty of my three-year-old. There’s just something that floors me every time I ask Little Man why he did something he knew he shouldn’t have done, and in response he looks me straight in the eyes and says, with no malicious intent whatsoever, “I fight you.”

Just in case I missed that point, and isn’t that reason enough?

From a parent’s perspective (a perspective that is adding so many dimensions to my understanding of my own faith) I’m not naive enough to think that I’m going to be thrilled when my ‘tween and teen kids talk back to me.

However, when my three-year-old tells me quite clearly and honestly what it is that’s going on in his mind… that he feels that we are in conflict… this is beautiful. He’s offering me a glimpse of how he really feels… what his honest motivations are… and though he doesn’t particularly understand everything that’s happening between us, he’s willing to show me how it looks from his perspective.

Sometimes I wish I could be this simply, non-confrontationally honest with God.

God is not fooled by our outward appearances. He’s not fooled by the face that we present to the world. He knows what turmoil lies beneath. He knows when we’re upset by circumstances, when we’re struggling with feelings of injustice, when we just cannot understand why He would let things unfold as they do.

Christian teachings tell us that the thing to do in the face of adversity is to “run the race with perseverance” and to “hand it over to God in prayer”. So we journal, and we discuss, and we even kneel and pray. We dig up words of thankfulness and petition, and we wonder if they’ll ever be enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Thankfulness and petition are appropriate attitudes in moments of reflection and prayer, but why should we not expect that God is willing and wanting to hear our honest expression of how this experience looks to us? Why else did he come down to live among us and experience the human condition? He is interested in how we’re doing… and he is interested in hearing us express what is already obvious to Him: we are in conflict.

“God, I don’t understand what You’re doing here. I feel like we’re in conflict, and I’m not happy. I’m confused, I’m frustrated, and frankly… I’m fighting you. I’m fighting…. struggling… against these expectations that I can neither define, nor meet. Wrestling with perceptions of inadequacies that I’m unable to identify as weakness or latent strength. So no, God, I don’t know what to pray for. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t understand, and I’m fighting you, and I’m willing to tell you honestly. ”

“I’m fighting you and it’s hurting us both.
Help me to know any other way to do this.”

Of course, I know when Little Man is fighting me. Of course I know when he feels that he has been slighted or some injustice is in the works. Of course I know when he’s confused and conflicted… and still it is beautiful and endearing to hear him say clearly… with love, confusion and frustration mixed upon his face… “I fight you.”

To such as these belong the Kingdom of God.

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