Jesus proclaims in Mark 10:15 that we need the faith of a child to enter the kingdom of God. Have you ever struggled with this? What exactly does it mean? Are we to have a simplistic naiveté? A blind loyalty? A daily nap? What?
I used to be confused about childlike faith as well. Faith, life, and the scriptures are complex I thought. They demand detailed study, a steadfast intellect, and honed emotional and social skills. It takes many years to develop a maturity of the spirit which overflows with influence in teaching and leading others. Moreover, profound, meaningful faith is often found only in through suffering, helplessness, exhaustion, the loneliness of the dark night, the unquenchable vastness of the desert. What about this process is childlike?
But then I had a child and begin reading bibles for children. I was struck by one in particular, The Jesus Storybook Bible. A pastor friend once remarked he would recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible to all new believers of all ages except save for the mistaken condescending attitude it might convey.
He’s was right.
It’s potent. It’s picturesque. Grace drips from every page. It’s language is simple and straightforward, but at the same time majestic and profound.
Take for example its description of God’s love. Grown up bibles use words like faithfulness, loving kindness, and covenant loyalty to show how much God cares for his people. Those terms are true enough. But be honest. Haven’t we heard them so much they have become somewhat mechanical? Do we even really know what they mean or to what they are referring? All too often we just being plop them down into our prayers or exhortations out of nowhere without even knowing or caring about how they are used in the bible.
The Jesus Storybook Bible will have none of this vague chicanery. It not only says God loves his children, it says God loves his children with a “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love!”
That is language you can’t read sitting down.
He will let nothing stand in his way. He will have his prize, his bride at any cost to himself. No matter how many time his people screw up, God refuses to abandon pursuit. He is relentless. He loves us too much to leave us where he finds us, where we are.
When we understand his relentlessness, it ultimately bends us and transforms us into new people. People of true faith. People of child-like faith. We learn to trust his relentlessness, as a child his or her parent.
It’s not Hallmark banality. It’s a guarantee of holiness, of his presence, of himself.
I have a friend who experienced hard times as a six year old, when his father abandoned the family. At one point they didn’t have food in the pantry. My friend told his mother with equal parts confidence and nonchalance God would bring them food.
My friend’s response tells us a lot about child like faith.
Six year olds trust God’s relentlessness. It’s obvious, barely even a big deal.
He didn’t speak to his mom about God with feel good, kumbaya sentiment. Rather he spoke with a direct astuteness stemming from frankly asking for a need. No pride. No manipulation. Just trust.
Child like faith is knowing you can be satisfied and at peace no matter what the answer because of the character of the one doing the answering.
Childlike faith is not simplistic at all, it is specific. It’s about food in the pantry. It’s about God using each and every blessing and obstacle to draw us too himself. It’s about stopping dead our constant desire to use spirituality for our own selfish ends.
It is fearless. Shameless. Utterly dependent.
It’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever.”
How many adults can describe their spiritual journey in such terms? Very few of us know anything of such vulnerability. Our addiction to control and delusion of importance are too intoxicating.
But our God will have his prize. He doesn’t give up even on us adults.
Oh, and my friend’s pantry was anonymously filled later that week.