I have been a minister for almost thirteen years, and I have been a Christian for far longer than that. However, I have learned more about kingdom living in the past six years of being a mother than I have in that entire time altogether.
Jesus said, “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.” (Mark 10:14-15).
Something about what children know instinctively about the kingdom is somehow forgotten as we grow up and allow the world to teach us otherwise. The following are some of the gems I have picked up from my children over the last few years.
1. Jesus is Freedom.
You will never hear a silent and calm children’s worship service. All children’s ministries are filled with dancing and shouting. Why do we ever outgrow that?
There was a period of time when my son really didn’t like being asked to pray before bedtime. He would literally tell me, “I don’t want to pray.” I would tell him about God, and he would start walking towards the kitchen for a snack. I would read bible stories, and all the while he’d play with his toy car! For a time, I really felt like a failure as a Christian mom AND a minister.
Until one day, I was listening to a worship song in my car. We came upon this one portion of the song when the worship leader would shout “Jesus!” at the top of his lungs. In the back of the car, I heard my son giggling and kicking his legs. For the rest of the car ride, I heard him sing at the top of his lungs and shout the name of Jesus all the way home. It was joyful. It was with an abandon of self. It was what worship should be for even adults.
I realized that he was not open to the Jesus that came in the form of pressure or tradition. His heart was so naturally drawn to Jesus of freedom, the name you would shout without inhibition or fear. After all, isn’t that truly who Jesus is?
Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
2. Let it out and let it go.
Look down on that wailing child in aisle three at the grocery store all you want. But, after he gets it all out of his system, he will be able to move on as if the crisis of dropping his water bottle never happened.
When children are hurt, they scream. They cry. They bury their salty, snotty faces into your clean shirt. For them, there is no such thing as a grief too messy. They are truly the best grievers.
Now, as adults, we learn over time that there are appropriate times and ways to grieve. However, sometimes, we take these lessons to an extreme and scrap the whole grieving process out completely. Consequently, we become adults who carry the overwhelming burdens of bitterness, fear, and worry all around, simply because we no longer feel safe or “allowed” to properly feel the negativity.
Perhaps the reason why you have such a difficult time moving forward from your past is because you have not allowed yourself to properly grieve it. It is not selfish to allow yourself to cry it out in private or on the shoulders of one you trust. It is not juvenile to need to share your story of loss with a trusted one. Either way, if you need to let it go, you must first let it out.
Maybe we can all learn a thing or two from that wailing child in aisle three after all.
3. Know you don’t know everything.
Children are always learning because they know deep inside that they need to. They have a striking awareness that they have a limited understanding of the world and even of themselves.
Someone recently asked me if doing adult ministry is easier than youth ministry. My answer to this is that although it has definitely been a delight to work with adults, they are definitely more difficult. The reason is many adults assume they have sufficient understanding from experience, so they are more set in their ways.
Experience may have taught you a thing or two over the years, but it can also teach you both good and bad things. Only the Lord has true wisdom that could set you free and guide your path.
We must never cease to be teachable. We must never believe that our understanding is more trustworthy than God’s.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Everyday my children laugh. Even after an extremely rough day they can laugh just about anything. It is medicine for their soul.
I noticed that, for my children, laughter is like a reset button. It helps them center themselves back to a happy normal. After they receive discipline, a moment of laughter restores them to a place of confidence. After a fight, a funny noise can disperse all negative feelings. When they are afraid, a silly moment invites courage into the atmosphere.
Sometimes adults take life too seriously. We are all here for but a moment. Perhaps, we should take a moment to laugh as well.
Proverbs 31:25 says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
5. Demand connection.
The reason why parents are so tired is because children are so demanding. If they are sad, they need that sadness to be addressed. If they are angry, they need that anger to be heard. The reason why two-year-olds have temper tantrums is because they want to feel understood, despite their limited language skills. Children are not okay with the needs of their soul being unmet.
However, many adults live to be okay with this. Over time, we lower our expectations of others and settle with just “getting along” and “fitting in.” As we grow older in a time when conversations are done via text and feelings are expressed via Facebook statuses, it’s easy to starve our hearts of any real connections.
I admire how raw my toddlers are when it comes to expressing themselves. They persist to be held. They cling on to you when they are scared. And although maturity does call for a higher level of independence and resilience, I believe somewhere in that endeavor, some of us may have forfeited the right for connection altogether.