“Watch me mommy, watch me balance!”
I watched as my daughter tip-toed carefully around on narrow concrete boarders that outlined the flowerbeds. “Don’t I do good?” She asked. Just three years old and she was already finding fun in everything that came her way. Focused on her feet, humming, I watched as she balanced. A breeze was playing gently in her honey-golden hair. Not a care in the world, she knew nothing of the turmoil that was brewing inside the house we had just left. My husband’s mother had died and we were arguing, senselessly, the way families can do under the stress of losing a loved one. Cremation is a tradition in my husband’s family, something I never knew. As a mother, I wasn’t sure how I would explain that to my children then ages 7, 5 and 3, that their Nana’s body was burned and put in a little box. I didn’t really have an opinion about cremation; I was overwhelmed trying to sort through it all.
My daughter continued on, balancing carefully, beckoning me to watch her. As I looked up I realized the concrete boarders she was walking along made shapes.
I called out to her “Oh, look sweetie. It makes a diamond.” As I stepped back I saw more shapes. “And that one is a star.”
“I don’t see it Mommy, where?”
She wanted to see them, to show off her new found awareness in knowing her shapes, “Where Mommy?” She insisted. I couldn’t believe she couldn’t see them, they were so obvious to me. She had been tracing the shapes in her balancing. I moved in closer to help her see and I discovered from her perspective you couldn’t see the shapes, she was too close. I picked her up and we moved back. After a few seconds a warm smile came over her face, “Oh, I see it mommy, it is a diamond, and that’s a star. Look over there – it’s my favorite, a heart.” She giggled, hugged my neck and then wiggled to get down. She quickly went back to her balancing.
In those few moments, I had forgotten my anxiety. How I envied her innocence. The innocence of children is so refreshing. It is sad to see that innocence begin to fade as our children grow older. With each of my children there has been a moment when I watched that happen; when they realize that the world is a sad and often cruel place. With my daughter it was when a neighborhood dog attacked her cat. With my oldest son it was when his bike was stolen. The wide-eyed wonder is gone and reality sets in. That eventual movement from child to adult. These moments have caused me to reflect on what Christ meant when he told his followers.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)
Don’t we all grow up and lose our childhood innocence? What did Christ mean? Can we intentionally become carefree and innocent?
I’ve been told that the childlike characteristic Christ is talking about is trust; the open honest trust of a child. Can I receive the Kingdom of God like a child? Can I trust Him, with everything? I don’t know, maybe – sometimes. As adults, aren’t we praised for being self-starters? We spend our day solving problems, making solutions. After all, the Lord helps those who help themselves, doesn’t he? How do we blend these two paradoxical ideas? Maybe true Christian living is a life balancing between these two contradictions.
A child has no option but to trust; like the child being thrown into the air by a playful father. The father is strong and we know he will catch his child. Everyone smiles as the child screams in delight. The situation is totally outside of the child’s control, there is nothing he can do and he knows it – and it doesn’t seem to bother him.
As adults things become complex. We have more options. We’re used to being in control. Many of us have abandoned trust in others. We have our own experiences to draw upon. We’ve learned from our successes and our failures. Yet with all this confidence we’re often filled with anxiety. The truth is there are things we cannot control. I think of my own sleepless nights waiting for a phone call from my son, or when I met the doctor outside my mother’s hospital room, and the season when my husband lost his job. Each person we meet has a story, a struggle, and our world tells us “take control, manage, organize, do, do, do” … yet Jesus stands in contrast saying, “trust, and receive – as a child”.
There is peace that comes with trust. There is also comfort that comes with trust, comfort in knowing that the creator of the universe is in charge of things. Things that I don’t understand, things I may never understand. There is a precioius passage in the book of Isaiah where God shares something profound with his prophet:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (55:8-9)
I take these words to heart; an amazing thing to contemplate. God is not a man; he is not bound by my way of thinking. His thoughts are not my thoughts. Perhaps that’s the secret to a childlike trust – not knowing everything, yet being content that God does.
Maybe, like my daughter, we’re simply too close to the shapes. They don’t fit into our line of sight. God calls out “Trust me, I am in control.” Is it possible that one day we’ll have a chance to look back at our lives and the Lord will say “Remember that time, when you were struggling? I was working on a larger picture. I was making shapes. You couldn’t see them, but I could.”