“Unless you be converted and become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
I, unsurprisingly, could never understand this verse very well until having a child of my own.
My son Peter is in a special stage of his life.
He’s just learned to crawl and pull himself up to standing on anything he can hold onto. He’s eager to explore, to maneuver himself around, and to be independent—as long as one of his parents isn’t too far away. He wants to adventure, but he still needs the security of our presence.
This past month, I have watched him fall down and bump his head more times than I ever wanted to see him get hurt in his whole life. He has bruises on his legs from standing and kneeling and jumping. The other day he banged his mouth on the corner of a dresser and bled all over me.
But every single time he falls down, loses his balance, or gets hurt, I hold him in my arms until he stops crying, and then he goes right back to what he was doing.
Though Peter is only ten months old, he does not know discouragement. He does not understand giving up. Like other children of his age, he does not even seem to comprehend fear.
Then, when we grow up, we think we know more about life. We start to believe that we’re realistic, and reasonable, and learned. We think we know that life doesn’t always work out and that we should expect disappointment. Sometimes we even think hope is a lie. And so we learn to respond to fear more than we respond to optimism.
As adults, we tire of falling down, losing our balance, and getting hurt.
I am sad to say that I’ve known too many people who said: “Things just keep not working out for me. I just don’t think God is paying attention to me. I’m going to take a break from Him.”
I understand now that God is a loving parent, staying back but keeping watch on His children. He is a father in the room. He allows us to play, maybe even calls out a warning when He sees us nearing a tumble. But He refuses to interfere and prevent us from exploring and growing and developing.
Though I would love to keep my little boy from getting hurt, I would have to keep him in a padded playpen at all times to do so. I won’t do that to him any more than God will keep us in a cage deprived of our free will to keep us safe from ourselves. There’s only one difference between adults pouting about God not letting their lives work out the way they want and Peter getting physically injured. Unlike the adults, Peter trusts that his parent is watching over him.
Peter does not feel abandoned because he is constantly looking back, remembering I am with him, and knowing I’ll be there to care for him when he falls. The only time we adults will feel abandoned by God is when we stop looking back, when we only focus on our own adventuring abilities, and decide to ignore the hope and security His presence always gives us.