At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
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. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Matthew 18: 1-5
We have been on the road this week, seeing some wonderful people and experiencing some of the most beautiful places in the nation. I love long drives in the country - the many miles of rural scenery are so peaceful and refreshing to the spirit, and there is so much time to think. I mentioned last time that this is a bit of a watershed season in my life, as our nest is now officially empty. That, coupled with the fact that 30 years ago this fall was our first semester at University of the Pacific, where Eli and I would meet each other and Jesus and have our lives and futures transformed, has made me even more sentimental than I usually am.
I am so grateful for the life God has given to us. What a gift it is to love and serve Him, and to raise our children to do the same. What a blessing to realize that my family is such a treasure - not just our children and grandchildren, but our parents and grandparents as well. God has allowed us to have such a rich history of godly, kind, faithful people, and that kind of foundation in life is a rare gift.
Looking back on my childhood includes nothing but pleasant memories. We lived much of my young life in seaboard Connecticut, which is a storybook place, full of fascinating history, architecture and scenery. My thoughts of childhood include rejoicing when the morning news announced school was cancelled due to heavy snow, then spending the entire day sledding or ice skating. We would come back home and hang our wet jackets and socks by the fire, and it felt so awful and wonderful at the same time to let our hands and feet thaw out by the fire while we sipped some hot cocoa. I think of summertime swimming at the lake, drinking fresh apple cider at the orchard in autumn, and beautiful springtime flowers blooming after a long winter.
Absent from my idyllic memories of my youth are nights spent worrying about anything. I had nothing to worry about. My parents loved each other and they loved us, in both word and deed. I never worried about what I would do if one of them left because that never seemed to be an option in our house. I never worried about where we would live, what we would eat, or if we would have clothes - my parents always gave us everything we needed and then some. I never wondered if we would have enough money to pay the bills, or if we would be safe from harm; I had no reason to doubt that my parents would do everything they could to keep us healthy in every way. Having worked with young people with very difficult childhoods for so many years, I realize that my own experience is truly a gift, and sadly the exception rather than the norm.
My childhood helps me understand what Jesus means when He says, “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. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Many people have a very difficult time believing that God truly is good and faithful. So many have experienced terrible and traumatic events in their younger years - it has been truly heartbreaking to hear so many awful stories throughout our tenure in the ministry. Children are exposed to horrendous violence and exploitation, abuse of every kind, and float from home to home as families shatter into ever-greater disfunction. They have no good or wholesome concept of what “normal” is as they enter adulthood. Terrible patterns of behavior and abuse are passed down from generation to generation. When a person with a history like that is introduced to the reality of a great God of love, faithfulness and hope, it seems much too good to be true.
But it is true. God's promises are not empty words. His character is not unsteady or untrustworthy. HIs Kingdom is not coming someday, it is already here.
Even with my wonderful childhood and my extensive adult studies of the nature and character of God, I have found myself slipping many times into the habit of worry. Sadly, I can no longer say that I have never lost sleep, wondering what would happen with this situation or that person, fretting over every potential terrible outcome. I have struggled with doubts and with a lack of faith more times than I care to admit. What happened?
I am the one who changed. As I entered adulthood, I saw and experienced some of the storms and uncertainties of life, in my own life and in the lives of people I loved. When the ground suddenly seemed to be unsteady, I took my eyes off of what the Bible tells me to be true, and worried instead that maybe God wasn't quite as good or powerful or faithful as we hoped. When circumstances did not meet my expectations, my faith faltered. When seasons were difficult to walk through, I trusted my eyes and not the greater reality of the Kingdom of God.
I changed, but Jesus says plainly, "change back." Take action against your doubt, and stop trying to make it through on your own. Remind yourself of truth. Relax and trust God like you did when you were a child. Rest easy like you did when you were small. You don't have to worry about any of those people or things, what you will eat or what you will wear; you don't have to be knocked off balance by the uncertainties of life. God is looking after all of those things for you, and He is much more capable anyhow.
Further, if we won't change and trust like a child, we will miss so much of the goodness of the Kingdom of God. We will entirely miss the rich and satisfying life of living like sons and daughters of the King - people who hold so much power and authority and resource because of Who their Father is.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, "“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble...." Life is certain to be uncertain. But just as certain is the fact that God is good and trustworthy - Jesus continued, "but take heart! I have overcome the world." Let's live like children, and trust our Father whole-heartedly. Let's believe Him when He says that He has overcome the world. Let's live as people full of faith in the goodness and steadfastness of our King, so that others can see how much better it is to live in His Kingdom - both forever and for today.
The book is here! Here are Tara (a delight to work with from Wisdom House) and I at the book launch party last weekend. Order your copy today!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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