Feeling like you don’t know how to teach your children about faith? Me too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Matthew 18: 2-4 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

One of the most humbling things I have encountered in parenting is the shear number of things I have discovered that I do not know.

It’s not that I’m afraid of not knowing things – it’s that I actually feel like I know less every year (day) that I’m alive.  Or perhaps, I am being humbled at a faster rate than I am learning things. 

Life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it?

My husband and I came into this parenting thing thinking it was out job to teach our children.  And it is, of course.  But there are things I thought I knew, and now I know that I don’t know them.  There are answers I have given that have now proven faulty, and things I’ve tried to teach my children, only to discover that they are unlearning something better that they already possessed. 

How is it that the things I thought I knew no longer feel certain, and the things I thought I was teaching, I end up feeling like the student?  Maybe children are an example of a certain kind of wisdom that life washes off of us if we don’t fight to keep it.  Or maybe these lessons required the accompanying humility that my children have ushered into my life. 

One way or another, I am a student in my own home, more than I ever could have imagined.  As parents, we may have more knowledge and experience, but I’m finding that some of the hardest things for an adult to learn come naturally for well-loved little ones. 

(I add the caveat “well loved” because, as we all know, sadly life hits some sweet children too hard and too fast, and they are forced for survival to let go of their innocent wonder, unquestioning faith, and fearless receipt of affection). 

As parents, we may know more of God’s Word, but our children know more about pure faith. 

We may know the gospel of Christ, but they know far more about how to depend on someone else’s finished work.*

We may tell them that every good and perfect gift comes from above, but they know far better how to ask and receive.*

I may teach them about the meaning of the Sabbath, but they teach me how to rest.* 

I teach them the words “God is love,” but they teach me how to live loved.*

I teach them that God calls us His children; they teach me how to ask for good gifts.*

I teach them that God says we’re made with eternity set in our hearts; they teach me to dream of a life of greatness.*

I teach them the words and the melody of “Jesus loves me”; they teach me what it looks like to walk as if it’s the song of rejoicing being sung over your life. 

Their imaginations are vast to consider the wonders of God. 

Their hands are not too proud to open up and receive a present. 

Their hearts are not too guarded to be loved unconditionally. 

Open, humble, dependent.  

Made in the image of the Ultimate Creative Genius, these little ones have an imagination that cannot be contained, an appreciation and wonder for things of beauty and curiosity.  I watch and learn again how to see God, how to find joy, in caterpillars and clouds and cotton candy.   

Before becoming a mama, Jesus’ words to become like little children rolled off of me with a nod and a passive agreement that I should learn to lean on Christ.  But watching my children has planted a longing in me to be transformed into the kind of person who knows how to climb into her Daddy’s lap and be held

Watching my children challenges every last cell of pride in me, and moves me to wonder if true maturity for the Christian isn’t completely upside down.  Not so much about improving, doing more good and less bad, and more about learning how incredibly broken and in need of help we are…relearning how to yell “Daddy!!” from the sidewalk where we skinned our knees.  Relearning how to say “Help!,” when we don’t know how to do something new.  Relearning how to hide behind my Daddy’s knees when something is new or scary.  Relearning how to say “I’d really like a hug,” or “Do you think I’m pretty?” or “Do you like my painting?” Relearning how to yell at the lies that come against us: “That can’t be true because my daddy says so!” 

A well-loved child naturally looks to a parent or trusted adult to know if their ok, to gain strength and confidence. And whatever they face as they grow up, I always want them to lock eyes with us, and ultimately with the Lord, when no other face or place feels safe.

And isn’t this what we are all trying to teach our souls to do with our Father in heaven?  To look up and lock eyes when we are afraid, confused, uncertain, or in need of a reminder of who we are?  To let God be our confidence, our hiding place, our refuge and strength?

I want to live like a well-loved child before my Father in heaven.  I know that my children know they are loved because they have no shame in expressing what they want and need.  They know the source, and they come with freedom and confidence, to me, to their daddy, and in their prayers to their Good, Good, Father…just the way the Bible tells us to come.  My children receive expressions of love and affection unreservedly, just the way I want to receive from our Heavenly Father.*

Motherhood has tucked inside a beautiful invitation to bear witness to the ones that Jesus called our example.

I’m through with trying to know it all.  When it comes to teaching my children about things of faith, I will take them by the hand, and teach them what I know,  with open eyes and an open heart to learn from them, too.  Being a mama has revealed to me the deep wisdom Jesus shares as he tells us to change and become like little children.

We can have the right answers, spend a lifetime going to church, become a Bible scholar, and still what we need most to know the heart of God, is to approach him with a heart like a child…bringing only our need.  Hallelujah.

 

*Bible references:

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

Hebrews 4: 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

John 16: 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

James 1: 17 NIV Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Hebrews 4:9 NIV There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God…

John 19:30 NIV When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

1 John 4: 7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Ecclesiastes 3: 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Zephaniah 3: 17 The Lord your God is with you; the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

Dear child of mine, teach me to have eyes of wonder

Dear child of mine,

Many things I teach to you, sweet one.  I’ve walked a few more miles, and lived a few more years.  But in this, I am your student.

In this, I find you wise beyond your years, and mature beyond measure.

In this, I find you exquisite.  I can only hope not to move you backwards.  I can only hope not to make you more like me, but me like you.

It’s your eyes that captivate me, precious child.  It’s the way your eyes can see things that I have long forgotten to notice.

It’s the way your eyes can take in everything that truly matters and nothing all at once.

You care not about the traffic, but you revel in the size of the wheels on the truck beside us.  You care not about the clock, but the flicker of the rock along the path to our car never fails to catch your eye.

You fear not if we’ve wondered off the trail, but you delight in the feel of a toad in your hands.  You love the bumps of his back, and the rise of his throat.  You delight in the quick of his legs and when he surprises you with a mighty leap, you treasure the hunt to find him again.

What I call weeds, your eyes call wild bouquet.  What I call delays, your eyes call divine appointments with God’s gifts of the day.

Though I’m older now, small one, I want to grow eyes like yours, as I age.

Sweet child of mine, will you teach me to have eyes of wonder?

Will you teach me to see the world as one giant gift of glorious exploration?

Will you teach me to encounter God the Creator in the curve of a butterfly wing, and the wiggle of a worm?

Will you teach me to slow my busied mind, and breathe in the scent of fresh cut grass on a hill?  To roll down it with abandon to the grass stains?

Will you teach me to put aside the worries of the day, to tip my chin and feel the warm of the sun on my face?

Teach me to linger, to giggle endlessly about the way your baby brother’s diaper bobs back and forth when he walks.

Teach me again about the bliss of spinning with arms spread wide…the exhilaration of stumbling to the floor to watch the room swirl.

Teach me to marvel at the engineering of trucks and excavators and cranes in the construction site.  Just to watch the levers and gears and dirt frolic and dance.

Teach me to dwell with the trickle of creek and the echo of crickets.

Teach me to see the miracle of faces.  Teach me to see with endless possibility, and courageous hope.  Teach me to know God by having eyes to see his beauty in every little corner of creation.

Dear child of mine, when I grow up, I want to have eyes just like yours.

Never lose your wonder.

The thing our kids do better than their mamas

You can’t hurry a toddler with eyes full of wonder. You can’t motivate her to rush into the carseat when an anthill has caught her eye. You can’t convince her that clouds taking new shape in the breeze aren’t the most important thing happening right now. Little ones dwell in the places I rarely remember to visit. They dwell in the colors of the butterfly and the feeling of blades of grass under toes. They revel in the magic of sand running between fingers and snowflakes landing on eyelashes.  From a daddy’s tickles to a sibling’s knock-knock jokes, young children can delight in a silly moment and want to recreate and relive it as many times as they can (perhaps until an adult tires of it, and asks them to play a new game). Living in a house full of small people who know how to embrace and enjoy the moments of their days, I realize that I am the only one who doesn’t get it.  So, these days, I am a student of my children, in the school of “Stop and smell the roses.” I long for more of their joy, their calm, their freedom, their humility. They rarely feel that life is too heavy to giggle. They don’t feel too important to slow down. They never feel too busy or stressed to play. In their view, life is play. When something beautiful or interesting or unexpected crosses their path, they are not inclined to view it as trivial or ill-timed. They receive it as gift.

And, marvel of marvels, Jesus instructed us to be like them. What hidden treasures might be found in encountering God’s world through their lens.

Mamas, do most of your arguments with your children begin with being in a hurry? I know mine do.  Children move slowly… they have a natural drive to take in, experience and learn about the world around them. It can be maddening when the rest of the world is moving so quickly. When there is a clock ticking, a place to be, a thing to be done, I can look at my children and think that their slow pace simply reflects a lack of responsibility. But it strikes me, that as children of God, we are given the opportunity to live with the same freedom. If it’s all up to me, and the weight of the world is on my shoulders, than there is simply no time to spare. But if God is on the throne, and I’m just a child in His world, destined to live in this fleshy body and with a limited number of hours in a day, then I am actually and truly free to slow the heck down. It has always amazed me that Jesus never seemed to rush. He was highly demanded of – perhaps more than anyone else who has walked the planet. Crowds by the thousands were desperate for his teaching and his healing touch. They chased him across bodies of water, and interrupted his quiet moments.  He knows how we feel, mamas!  And yet, he never seemed to hurry. Perhaps there is a childlike faith that allows us to believe in our depths that God only intends for us to be in the singular moment that we are in right now. When we feel we need to be in more than one place at a time, we are believing a lie. God can be all the places – we are only meant to be in the one.  Children seem to get it, but as we grow and gain responsibility and start believing that we are desperately needed to keep the world spinning, we forget how to live with this kind of presence.

I am watching my children, and trying to do everything in my power to NOT RUSH. I am vowing to never try to squeeze in a grocery store run on our way to another appointment. I will always build in time for someone to need to poop. I will expect the unexpected and stop viewing it as an inconvenience. I’m learning that life is sweeter when I spend more time observing and learning from my children, and less time trying to make them like me. If we play by their rules a little more, maybe I will spend a bit less time making the perfect birthday cake, and a lot more time enjoying the rolly polly on the sidewalk.  Friend, I’m finding this sweetness in building in “kid time.” Let the 8 yard walk to the car take 18 minutes so they (and you) can smell every flower and throw 47 helicopter maple seeds and pick up a caterpillar or two. Of course, many many mornings in my home still begin with my barking orders to put on shoes, or buckle up seat belts. Many times, we simply run out of time, and I grow quickly impatient. But, I am trying to shift my view and change my goals – delight versus efficiency.

I want to stop and smell the roses with my children, even if it means it’s going to take a little longer to get to where we’re going.  After at least a million failed attempts, I now know fully and officially that I cannot muster up patience, especially when every moment that I try has been preceded by all of the things that make me want to pull my hair out one strand at a time. No, I can’t muster up patience. But I can choose to stop and delight. I can choose a gratitude that slooows the mind and body. I can soak the laughter, and the long silly stories from the lips of my children. I can ask them why they think that beetle is so amazing, or to teach me how to turn a cardboard box into an amazing day of adventure. I can laugh as they eat an ice cream cone upside down, praising Jesus for washing machines.