I got to spend the day with my granddaughter earlier this week. She’s three, and has all the energy of a firecracker, and the curiosity of a kitten. She is learning to discern what things and which people are trustworthy (or not). Having worked with children from infants to teens over the years, I have seen this progression in others– sometimes with good results, and sometimes ending in disaster.
We hear about “childlike” faith–Jesus spoke of it; even praised it. Yet we see examples of people whose simple faith puts them in danger from predators, bullies, scam artists, and other perils. Is this really what Christ wants from us? No! Jesus didn’t commend foolishness; he told dozens of parables warning of foolishness and simple-mindedness. The Apostle Paul also talks of “babies” in the faith needing to grow wiser and stronger. There is a difference between having the faith of a child, and having the brain of a child. Jesus doesn’t want us to be ignorant, gullible, or bratty, but He loved the willingness of children to ask questions, seek out answers, and listen with open minds and hearts.
Most people become cynical over the years– some far earlier than others. They trust no one and nothing but themselves, thinking they know best, or frightened to find out what they don’t know. In many ways, they are as vulnerable (or even more so) as those who trust everyone.
My granddaughter is still at the stage where she trusts her parents and grandparents to watch out for her, give her good advice, and answer all her many questions. As she learns new skills, she often “consults” with us; asking our approval, wanting our input–as she meets new people, she will also take many of her cues from us. Should she be polite, informal, respectful, quiet, reserved, loud, assertive? She is still learning, but she still trusts us more than, say, her brothers or peers. There will come a time when she will develop the habit of either following the examples we have set for manners, traditions, habits, and such, or looking to other models.
Watching her, I was reminded of two very important questions I need to ask myself?
- What does she see and hear from me? Am I trustworthy in the way I talk to (and about!) others? About her? Am I giving her solid advice and good examples that will help her develop good habits and relationships? Am I “present”– not being distracted or half-hearted in responding to her needs? Am I teaching her wisdom about the dangers she must face in this world? Or do I pretend they don’t exist or won’t touch her?
- Who am I trusting? The obvious “right” answer is Jesus Christ, but is that the reality? Do I lean on my own understanding, or consult with “experts” without asking for God’s wisdom or seeking His approval? Am I seeking to learn from Him how to navigate the dangers of this world, or pretending they won’t touch me?
Having childlike faith is not the same as having a childish faith; it’s not the same as being foolish or ignoring facts. Smart children ask questions– lots of them! But they listen to the answers. Foolish children (and foolish adults) claim to know all the answers, and refuse to listen to advice.
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