Parenting: What Can You Learn About Faith From Your Kids?
Jesus obviously talked about child-like faith long before I decided to explore the notion of having it. To connect in faith – to really believe in Him, He was repeatedly clear. You must become like a little child in your faith approach. He said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3).
So, it seems imperative to figure out what ‘become like little children’ means. What about this innocent stage of life are we supposed to emulate? How are we to come to Jesus as a child? We better take a good look at what we can learn about faith from our children.
Six faith lessons come to mind about what we can learn from our kids about this most critical component of life – child-like faith.
FAITH LESSON #1 – Children trust completely.
The greater the love they sense; the greater the trust they show. The heart of child-like faith is this deep sense of trust. I loved the way my kids would jump into my arms – now my grandkids do. At first, you couldn’t be far from them and they still would lean forward reaching out to you in their meager attempt to jump. But the longer they experienced they could trust me; the more they would fully rely on me. “Trust Daddy – jump” took on more adventure with time. Off steps, balconies and even roofs – forward and even backward free falls, my kids grew to depend recklessly and unquestioningly in my care. They knew I would catch them. And even more profound, we care even when they are oblivious to it. The same is true with God. This faith lesson is fundamental – trust God freely and fully like your kids trust you. Jump into His arms.
FAITH LESSON #2 – Children are drawn to love.
They sense the people that love them and have time for them. Every little one loves to be touched, hugged and affirmed. They love to sit on your lap. They feel safest in your arms. Just yesterday, my two-year-old grandson, while watching a kid’s video with him, virtually had to be sitting on my head, he wanted to sit so close. He loves to lean into me, to cuddle and feel the love. Jesus knew kids needed love and that’s why children sought to get close to Him in His day. You know the story of how Jesus ‘lost it’ on His disciples when they tried to keep little children from getting to Him.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).
Another faith lesson you can learn from your children is that God wants you to seek Him out and bask in His love like your kids do you. He wants to bless you and encourage you as His child. He wants you to call Him Abba, father – literally “Daddy”.
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
Get close, really lean into your heavenly father.
FAITH LESSON #3 – Children are authentic.
By nature, a child is open, simple, and straightforward in his actions; he hasn’t developed the cunning and illusive defense mechanism of denial which older people practice. You simply see by his conduct what his real character and disposition is. It takes a while before a little one becomes an accomplished deceiver. When young, they reek with genuine innocence. There is no guile or deviousness at first. It takes work to perfect that into their teen years. Kids simply can’t hide things well. Remember,
“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” (Proverbs 20:11)
One afternoon, I went into our back yard to check on our two older kids, then ages 6 and 5. As I approached, there was a startled scramble and a feigned look of virtue. Unbelievably cute. “Were you in Mr. Block’s raspberries?” I asked. Where could they go with this one, I thought. Their denial was truly hilarious. Stained red hands, red tongues, berry seeds in their teeth and the last remaining berries jammed in their pockets to hide the evidence, all screamed of the truth. Remember, in the same way you can see through the charade of little children, God sees right through you and me – every time, all the time. Thus, the faith lesson here is to be honest with God in a childlike innocence for though “man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). He sees right through you anyway.
FAITH LESSION #4 – Children are copycats.
We hear “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” For sure, our kids become like us. Like an impressionable child imitates their parent, we are to copy Christ’s pattern of living in all we do. We don’t have any choice as parents – we are models. And boy, are they willing to follow. That’s the point Paul was getting at here.
“Follow God’s example in everything you do just as a much loved child imitates his father.” (Ephesians 5:1)
I remember when my older son, Brock, was 3. I was piggybacking him on my shoulders. Because of 6 broken noses, I occasionally have to clear my sinuses and expel debris. Since I was in a back alley, I didn’t hesitate. Next thing I heard was a slobbering sound something like a spit but not very crisp. My son’s attempt landed on my forehead. Though his try was only a gross approximation (literally) of my expert throat clearing, I learned something that day. He tries to copy EVERYTHING I do. The faith lesson is obvious – copy our Lord in everything like your admiring, much-loved child copies you.
FAITH LESSON #5 – Children learn through discipline.
We have our family guidelines, boundaries and limits because we love our kids. These corrective measures are designed to bring the best out of them. During times of giving out discipline to one of our kids, both Donalyn and I would always reassure them with this truth – “There is nothing you will ever do to make me quit loving you.” We wanted them to feel secure in our love. God, as our father, is just the same. Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39). And He too is more concerned about our character than our comfort. He wants you to become Christ-like – conformed to His Son’s image (Romans 8:29). He wants you to trust him during adversity and through correction. The faith lesson is simple – submit to God’s discipline like you expect your kids to submit to yours. This is the primary point of Hebrews 12.
“And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, ‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children.” (Hebrews 12:5-7)
FAITH LESSON #6 – What children learn early, takes root and lasts long.
We need to work hard to help our children learn all they can about life and the Lord early. Child psychologists maintain that 80% of who a child turns out to be is determined by age 5. The best parenting plan lays down a great foundation for life in the early years. We are wise to spend a lot of time with them, teaching, guiding, training and coaching them on all things truly valuable. That’s why Solomon in his wisdom said,
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
What an amazing promise for parents, but what a lesson for our own faith journey. Be like your child and soak up all you can as soon as you can. Learn everything possible about Jesus while your faith is young and it will take deep root in your heart and endure the test of time.
Wise is the parent who has a child-like faith and lives and breathes their love for God in an authentic and lasting way. Remember, Isaiah said some wise words, “a little child will lead them.” Humble yourself and learn to grow your faith in this new child-like way. I’d love to hear how your children are stretching your faith. Leave a comment and share your story!
© Dr. Dave Currie – December 2013