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Recapturing Child-like Faith

My wife Victoria and I have done quite a bit of backpacking, including a six-month hike of the entire 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail. To complete a long distance trail like the A.T., you have to learn to get in a fair amount of mileage each day.

We learned to hike 10 miles by lunchtime. We would hike through the afternoon more leisurely with 10 miles already at our backs, stop for dinner somewhere along the trail and then push on for a few more miles before stopping for the night. We became long distance hikers, capable of back-to-back 20-mile days in any kind of weather.

When our daughter Griffin was born, she taught us anew about backpacking. Covering long distances meant nothing to her as that only meant more time riding in a backpack. Griffin would, of course, sleep while riding in a backpack and pass some miles unnoticed. However, she was also fond of taking a closer look, a much closer look. Griffin could pass the time on a few feet of trail looking at each plant and watching every bug. Griffin taught us a different appreciation for the trails we hiked.

Once when people were bringing their children to Jesus for his blessing, the disciples tried to stop them. Jesus got mad at the disciples. He told them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:13-15).

God knows that we adults need the freshness of a child’s eyes to see the world anew. God has always been interested in the ministry of children as well as ministry to children.

The prophet Jeremiah was just a young boy when he heard from God. He wrote of the first time he heard God’s word for him. God told Jeremiah that before he was even born, God had a plan for his life. The young Jeremiah responded by telling God, “I do not know how to speak. I am only a boy” (Jeremiah 1:6).

Jeremiah heard God and understood, but he was afraid to do anything about it, because he was only a child. God told him that only being a boy was no excuse. We shouldn’t be surprised. God has always picked people others considered unlikely and God often ministers to us through children.

It’s not that children were not valued in Ancient Israel. They were. We read throughout the Bible how children were seen as a gift from God, a blessing to their parents. But, older persons were honored by the society for their experience, and rightly so. Children were the powerless ones at the bottom of society. And yet, God did not view things that way. God looks more to the potential a person has and sees more than we can see.

God gave the young Joseph the gift of interpreting dreams. Though his brothers got jealous of their fathers attentions and tried to get rid of him, God still used that gift to make Joseph ruler over Egypt.

God called young Samuel in the night, when he was just a boy tending to Eli in the Temple. Like Jeremiah who would come later, God also made Samuel his messenger when he was but a boy.

Later God gave the child David great gifts in music and great courage to stand up for what is right. As a young boy, David stood up to the mighty warrior Goliath. Samuel anointed David as God’s chosen King while he was still a child. David went on to rule over Israel as a great king.

Aldo Leopold wrote that the process we called growing up was often a case of growing down as we went from a world full of possibility to learning more and more things that we couldn’t become or that could never happen. In growing down, we come to miss the possibilities before us.

It is no wonder that God loves children. They look at the world God has made and see it full of wonder and possibility, just as God sees it. Jeremiah found out that saying, “I am only a boy” was not an excuse that worked with God. For God did not see a man in the making, who needed a few more years experience to be useful, but a full child of God.

In God’s eyes, children are not the future of the church, but an important part of the Kingdom of God here and now, especially while they are children. The Body of Christ is not complete without people of all ages.

Of course, they are children and need instruction. The Bible tells us to teach our children and children’s children about God and to raise them up in the way they should go. Nevertheless, even as we are teaching them, we should also be open to learning. For kids offer us a chance to see the world as God sees it and an opportunity to recapture child-like faith.

(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.) 

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