1995. Jars of Clay released their classic self-titled album. I was still a child, just discovering Christian music. Like most people in America, Christian or non, I bought this CD because of their crossover hit, “Flood”. And until 2000, “Flood” was the primary song I listened to on the album.
2000. I was 16 and just starting to understand what it means to follow Jesus. I heard the Gospel explained in applicable language for the first time in my life and my relationship with God grew into something new and different. As I immersed myself in Christian culture and media, I revisited my old Jars of Clay CD. Suddenly, “Like a Child” became my go-to track.
I liked it for a few reasons:
- Understanding that I could do anything through Jesus, if I just believed, was a new concept for me. And it was exciting. Like I discovered a superpower I never knew I had.
- I defined childlike faith as sold-out, no-questions-asked, all-on-board, 150% IN-IT-TO-WIN-IT. Anything less than that level of intensity seemed disrespectful to God, in my opinion.
- Let’s be honest–it has a repetitive, catchy melody. Real catchy.
I held onto that definition of childlike faith for a long time. At 30, I’m just beginning to realize that it wasn’t very accurate. And it may have held me back in my spiritual development over the last 15 years of my life with Jesus.
2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:2-4
If you know a pre-schooler, think about them for a minute. When you teach them about how something works or the way something is, how do they typically respond?
They. Ask. Questions.
Lots of them. They rarely take anything at face value. They want to know the ins-and-outs. How it came to be that way. Why it’s that way now. Who made it that way. What was that person thinking? What’s their favorite color? What’s their middle name? And it goes on.
As a parent—sure, it might get annoying–but aren’t you encouraged when your child insists on understanding all the details of a topic? You know they’re growing. You know they’re becoming integrated with life on earth. Their life experiences are becoming deepened. They’re becoming more fully human.
I have a friend whose pre-schooler has yet to enter the, “But why?” stage of development. She’s expressed a little bit of worry about the fact that he takes everything as 100% truth and never questions anything. Everything is a fact and he’s comfortable with that. He’s all about his momma’s word–sold-out, all-in, no-questions-asked. In fact, he has a frequent pattern of speaking that goes like this:
G: “So we are going to the zoo today.”
Mom: “Yes, we are.”
G: “The zoo is in Roseville.”
Mom “Yes, it is.”
G: “There are gorillas at the zoo.”
Mom: “Yes………there are.”
And it continues. An adorable and incredibly articulate onslaught of statements about things he knows to be factual.
While I’m confident her little boy will get there in his own time (and she’ll probably regret ever wanting him to get there, at times) I have to believe that everyone’s faith development must work in a similar way. I don’t think I could’ve started asking the really hard questions at 21 or even 25. Because I’m not sure I could’ve held onto faith and questioned it simultaneously at those stages in my faith. But today, my relationship with God is continually deepened by walking deeper into this dark, cavernous tunnel with God’s hand on the small of my back, guiding me gradually to the other side, excitedly and proudly pointing me toward new discoveries, and free places to unashamedly wrestle and doubt.
It took me 15 years to start asking questions. I mean, the really hard, stretching, scary questions. Questions that force you to figure out what and why you really believe. Taking the example of a curious child and reforming my definition of childlike faith is deepening my relationship with God. Children are brave–they ask unlimited questions and don’t worry about coming off like they don’t trust your word. They just want to really understand.
Maybe growing more spiritually mature looks less like rising up and more like shrinking down to the most childlike posture, where we’re unafraid to dig deep and break things down. I think faith like a child is really about hearing our Father speak truth, accepting it as truth, latching onto it, but then looking him in the eyes and asking, “But why?”
2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. 1 Peter 2:2
Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18