And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:2-4, ESV)
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:14–15, ESV)
I never fully appreciated the gospel writers’ words until this summer on the lake…
My childhood summers were spent on the lake. Fishing, swimming and boating is what consumed our family retreats at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Instead of big trips out-of-state to amusement parks and such, my family would pack up the camping gear and head up north. Many of my most cherished memories come from these simple trips.
When looking back over summers gone by, one memory stands out clearest. I can see myself sitting on my knees in the bow of the boat, hands white-knuckling the cleats on either side of the seat, feeling the wind on my face as we cruised the lake. And every now and then, as we would charge through a wave or take another turn down the winding canyons, I would look back over my shoulder and see my daddy, shades on and a grin from ear to ear. He was our captain; he was at the helm, maneuvering us down the gorge to whatever destination he had chosen. I knew, as I sat there in the front, that I was completely and totally safe, and that my daddy was in control. I never feared the turbulence of the water, the other boats passing by or even if a storm lay on the horizon; my confidence lay in our grinning boat commander.
Sadly, that image has become just a reminiscence. No longer do I like to sit in the very bow, knees folded beneath me; no longer do I cruise without worry, not caring what surrounds me or what might come. With age, an anxiety has grown. My mind constantly jumbles the many “what ifs” and I am consumed with planning for “if the worst should happen...” My concern is no longer with enjoying the trip, but with everyone’s and everything’s placement on the boat- are my nieces secure, are life jackets available, did we tuck all the loose towels and such away?
I no longer look to the captain to see if all is well, instead I look to the sky, the water, the cliffs that surround us; I listen for the engine, the traffic of the lake, the sound of alarm. My place of rest and relaxation has become a new place to fret, another burden to bear, another worry that I must try and control.
Why can I not be like the little girl in my mind? Why can I not trust the man behind the wheel? It has nothing to do with him failing to ferry us safely; in fact, he has proven his skill and strength time and time again. He has taken us to and fro on bodies of water quite familiar to us, and on those that are new. He has captained us through white-capped waves, standing valiantly in the rain, keeping our course, while the rest of us took to shelter under the canopy. He has steered us clear of distracted drivers and lake debris, lightning storms and hidden rocks beneath the water's surface. He has always brought us to port and never once has he abandoned his charge.
So am I justified in my fear? Has my daddy given me reason not to trust him? Or have I simply let the distractions of this world get in the way? Have I allowed myself, in all my “grownup-ness” to think that I know more than a man who has driven a boat for more than 40 years now?
It has been said to me numerous times throughout my life, you must have “childlike faith.” But what does that even mean? Does it have to do with my excitement and joy; returning to a time when everything was new and fresh and captivating? Does it have to do with receiving God’s gift of the Kingdom, as a child receives all things necessary for his/her existence from a parent? Does it mean that in this journey of faith, I need to be reminded of my total helplessness apart from my heavenly Father?
In truth, it is all of these things and one thing more. This faith, this childlike faith, is about surrendering control to and completely trusting the One who holds my very being in His hands- the One who is at the helm of my life. It’s about being like that little girl again, knowing that the One who has always been faithful will continue to do so, for His glory and for my good. It’s about looking up and seeing the handiwork of my Captain all around me, and His smile stretched across the sky. It’s about forgetting the distractions, the little worries that preoccupy, and remembering that He is sovereign. It’s about giving Him my whole heart- not the portion I feel comfortable relinquishing, but all of it. It’s about trusting Him with everything, and in everything.
Have childlike faith. A pretty simple statement isn’t it? And yet it is so hard to truly commit to. But therein lies the beauty… Just as I can approach my earthly father when I falter or come across a new fear, so I can approach my Heavenly Father. Just as I could sit on my earthly papa’s lap and hear his words of encouragement, so I can rest in my Heavenly Papa’s presence and be reminded of His abounding grace.
Denying myself and trusting His heart
Has proven to be a difficult and rather delicate art.
Not that He has ever erred or led me astray,
But close to the flesh is my tendency to stay.
In my stubbornness I muse, “I can do it! I need not one!”
But then I fall and my world is completely undone.
Will I do it? Am I able to sit and be still?
Will I allow the Holy Spirit to transform my unruly will?
Will I give Him control and bend only to Him?
Or will I stay wandering, my path ever dim?
He simply whispers, “Come and rest in Me.”
And like a good father, sets me gently on His knee.
“Let Me lead you night and day-
Let Me show you on which path you should stay.
Trust in Me the whole way through-
Can you not see that I am making you anew?
I am your Papa who loves you most!
Stay with Me, remain ever close.
Trust- trust only in Me.
And be like that child, contented and free.”
Abba Father, give me the strength to pray,
And in childlike faith may your daughter ever stay.