Like a child.
This is the call, the challenge, of the Christian.
Children are those who have a lot to learn, and yet they are unashamed. Until they have been taught otherwise, they will go after what they want. Until they learn to fear, they will take daring risks that adults wouldn’t dream of. Are these risks always wise? No. But sometimes, fear carries us too far. We are told one decision we made was unwise and dangerous, that we should never do it again, and then somehow we come to question every opportunity we face. Then the risks we are called to take in obedience to the voice of our Father become barriers that we cannot hurdle, because fear has taken the place of our childlike, unabashed disposition.
So where did we go wrong? I mean, children have to learn from their mistakes, must come to know the consequences of bad choices, right? How, then, do we learn wisdom whilst keeping our childhood faith?
I think as children, and even adults, we tend to receive correction as an attack on our character or our identity. No matter what the person’s intention is who is teaching us the lesson, I think so many of us automatically put up defenses when we are confronted. We hate seeing what we’ve done wrong because it somehow proves to us that we’ve fallen short. That there’s something wrong with us that will always be wrong. Over time, with each incident, our minds turn correction into rejection, until one day there are so many walls around our hearts we can’t even identify what went wrong.
There is a foundational lie we believe that has to do with the way we perceive correction, which in turn also has to do with how we view God. The lie is that we can’t be saved, and that God doesn’t love us.
A lot of people would look at the things you believe about yourself and would like to tell you that there isn’t anything wrong with you. With every good intention, these understanding people want to counter your false assumptions with the opposite. I honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with this. Because, friend, there is nothing wrong with you. You’re not a failure, you’re not bad, you’re not weak, you are good enough. But if you believe these truths are based on your own merit, that is where you are mistaken, and that will become the affliction you can’t shake. Because as I’m sure you know, no matter how hard you try to be better, it never works.
Return with me now to the image of a small child. That unashamed, messy, naughty yet cuddly and sweet toddler who runs to those they love and look up to, and throws their arms around them with the expectation that the embrace will be returned in kind. It doesn’t really matter if they threw their peas across the room five seconds before. When someone they love walks in the room, they run to them with the anticipation of being accepted. If a toddler’s affection was based on their good and bad behavior, we would have a lot of extremely reserved and fearful toddlers. But isn’t this what we see in so many adults? Perhaps we hide it better, but inside we are so insecure that our affections are vastly limited and unpredictable. Though we desperately long to be loved and known, we don’t put ourselves out there to even get the chance because we are afraid. We are afraid that we’ve done wrong or will do it wrong.
Jesus says that his Kingdom belongs to the childlike. He also provided the way to accept our failures and move on so we can start believing different things about ourselves. He took every failure and shortcoming, so yes, the truth is that there is nothing wrong with you. There used to be, but that is now a lie in the face of a Savior’s spilled blood.
So why don’t we accept what the Father and the Son have so generously provided for us and run, like a child, into his arms—in our failures, with dirt on our faces and sticky fingers. Let us unashamedly toss our arms around his neck. It’s an incredible feeling to discover that He does indeed return the gesture, and that we in fact affirm His deep joy when we embrace our place as His adored sons and daughters. And in this wild and playful embrace we find the strength to take risks, to pursue a righteousness that is not dependant on us, to not hold back, and to dream like a child again.