One of the first jobs I ever had was childcare and it’s been the most common job I’ve held ever since. I’ve always loved working with kids. They’re delightful and they always keep you on your toes. It’s no wonder I ended up writing books for kids. Still, every kid, no matter how sweet or well behaved, has their days when they completely fall apart.
If you’ve never had to care for an inconsolable or angry child, enjoy your blissful ignorance. The rest of us know the reality of when a child is well and truly upset. Whether it’s because they’re sad, scared, or angry sometimes it feels like nothing you try will ever get them to calm down again. If there’s anything you need in abundance in childcare, it’s patience.
Kids can teach you a lot about how we act in relation to God, specifically how much we are just like them. We make a big show of having it all together as adults, but the reality is there’s not as much difference between us and the screaming, crying toddler when it comes time to how we interact with God. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to the fact that God frequently refers to us as children in the Bible.
When kids are scared of something, good luck trying to show them rationally why they shouldn’t be afraid of that thing. I remember walking through the shark exhibit at SeaWorld with my parents and screaming in terror with my back against the opposite wall because I was convinced there was no glass above the enclosure and I was going to fall in. My parents stood at the edge, pressing their hands against the glass, and reassured me that they wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. I was having none of it. Nice try parents, but you’re not getting me to fall into a shark enclosure that easily.
It’s laughable now, but how often do we approach God with that same disbelieving fear? God tells us to trust him, but instead, we refuse to believe him and choose to sit in mind-numbing fear and worry instead.
In another instance, have you ever tried to take one toy from a child to give them an even better one? It doesn’t exactly go well. They’ll hold on with that vice-like grip of theirs and refuse to let go, wailing the whole time. You can plead with them and even outright tell them you’re giving them something better, but they’ll just hold on, unable to see any farther than the immediate loss of the present toy.
We still do the same thing with God. I can’t count the number of times I’ve held on way too tightly to some idea of how I thought something should be going. And then, when I finally did let go, I sheepishly discovered just how much better I was being offered by God.
It would be easy for us to give up on even trying in the Christian life given how much we stumble and fall like toddlers. Why should we even try when we fail so spectacularly? How can we show our faces to God when we seem this incapable? Any loving parent knows the truth. You don’t stop loving your child just because they fall down, get scared, get angry, or don’t understand you. Your love is not that conditional, neither is God’s.
If God wanted minions who did his every bidding, yeah, we’d be toast. We’d be so useless with all our little failures and mishaps that there’s no way God could ever have any purpose for us. Fortunately for us, God doesn’t look at you and want a minion.
He just wants you.
So instead of turning his back on us, God holds us tight when we cry out in fear and takes the time to remind us that he won’t leave. He dusts us off when we fall down and tells us to try again. He disciplines us to make us the best version of ourselves. He challenges us to be more and holds us to a high standard because he loves us too much to leave us behind like a lost cause. He sees to our needs and helps us grow. He looks at us when we scream horrible things at him and says He loves us.
If you’re feeling like you can’t get anything right in your Christian walk, remember this. There’s no part of your walk that God isn’t watching and isn’t cheering for you to win. He’s not defeated by our bad moments, he doesn’t blow a fuse over every little thing we do out of line, and he doesn’t leave us in a failing state if we’re reaching out to him. Why? Because he’s a parent, and that’s what loving parents do. He forever has his arms stretched out to anyone reaching out to him.
Of course, that’s not to say we should just stop trying to grow and revel in our toddler states. We still have a responsibility to mature and grow. We want to grow up to become the kid a parent actually enjoys being around. What I’m driving at here is that we aren’t loved solely by our capability and our accomplishments. If that were the case, God could have left it to us to sanctify ourselves and bypassed Jesus entirely. No, we are loved not because we’re some decorated, award winner of human achievement. We’re loved like a parent loves their toddler, with all the good and bad moments.
When God looks at you, he doesn’t just see the failures and the fears. He sees someone he created (on purpose mind you!) and someone he loves. You have a father, and he loves you more than you could ever know. So toddler on, and remember just how loved you are as you continue to grow.
“But to all that believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
Let’s find some joy,