I have a daughter who is nine months old as I am writing this. Her name is Eden and I am convinced that she is the most beautiful child alive in the world. I also happen to know that I am not the only father who feels this way about his little girl.
A passage of Scripture that has defined Jesus in a lot of ways and long made people think about what it means to be a Christ-follower is Matthew 18:1-4:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
But what does that mean? What does Jesus desire from our lives when He asks us to become like little children? In a time when children were disregarded by the wise men of the society, Jesus turns the tables and tells us that unless we shift the course of our lives and grow to be like children, He wants no part of us.
My daughter, in all her wisdom as an infant, has taught me more about this startling truth than any preacher doing his thing on Sunday morning.
[IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO]
When life becomes too much for her to handle, Eden cries. She yells out for help. Although she can’t choose words to express her frustration, discomfort or anger she knows that when she raises her voice, she is answered.
Where, in the course of growing up, do we lose this sense of dependence? When does it suddenly become okay to try to handle life on our own? I know that when Eden cries out, she needs something. She needs help. She needs me.
A few months ago, I had a breakdown. Life had gotten rough for a stretch. Some very close friends were going through some marital troubles, finances were tight, and the ministry where I serve was going through a season of struggle. And in my office one afternoon, as I was preparing a sermon about the comfort Christ offers, I broke down and cried. As I heaved and sobbed and cried out to God for help, I felt this supernatural wave of relief. I can’t fully describe the feeling, but it was divine comfort.
We, as Christ-followers, must remember that we don’t have to live by our own might. Life is hard. The words of King David must become ours: In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.
[A SAFE PLACE]
Eden likes to play on the floor with her toys. She likes to stand in her crib and bang on the walls when she should be taking a nap. But there is no other place in this world that makes Eden happier than being in my arms or the arms of her mother.
We have a Father in heaven that loves us and longs to spend time with us. He never forces us to give Him time, but He waits patiently for us to draw near. And when we do, He is there with His arms wide open.
When I was in college, I remember feeling extremely guilty for falling asleep at night when I was trying to pray. But a friend of mine reminded me that God, as a Father, loves it when we feel so comfortable and safe that we can fall asleep in His embrace at night. I didn’t fully understand what that meant until my baby was born. As a father, my feelings of love are strongest when Eden falls asleep in my arms. I can only imagine that God’s feelings of love are strong too when we climb into His grip, for it is in His arms that we begin to know Him, that we find comfort, and that He can love on us.
[INNOCENCE IS BLISS]
Eden hates the vacuum cleaner. It’s loud, big and it moves. Her eyes get large when it’s on. My wife and I have to both be at home if the chore of vacuuming is to be accomplished. One of us vacuums, while the other holds our daughter.
Why does Eden feel this way about our Hoover? She doesn’t know any better. She doesn’t know that the vacuum isn’t out to destroy her. She doesn’t understand its purpose.
As adults, we act quite the opposite. There are things in this world that are out to get us. In the media culture, we have become desensitized to the smut that comes through the satellite signal or the radio waves. I think one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the Enemy is his ability to trick us into thinking what we are watching or listening to is not that bad. When in actuality, everything we allow into our minds and hearts affects us.
As Christians in the world, we really are “sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16). We need to be careful not to allow our standards to slacken. We need to understand the purpose and desire of the things in this world. We need to guard our hearts and our innocence.
[A GOOD TEACHER]
Jesus’ teachings regarding little children were revolutionary in the time and culture in which he walked the land. But I think that Jesus was merely revealing to us the truth about ourselves. He understood that we have grown up too fast. We have sacrificed a child-like faith for "maturity."
Eden, in her nine months of life, has taught me the beauty of being a child. She has reminded me of Jesus’ desire for children of the King to cry out to our Father, to climb into His open arms, and to embrace innocence in a scary world.
Who would have thought that so much could be learned from a girl who cannot yet speak?
[Brandon Smith lives in Kearney, Nebraska, where he works as a campus minister on a university campus. His daughter, Eden, is expecting her first little brother or sister in September.]