Sunday, June 1, 2014

1. Like a Child

(This is a series that was adapted from my life-story, Child of Mine, which is at  It’s about my journey to brokenness several years ago, before we bought the house we are in and before all of the newest self-esteem crushing trials.  I thank God that someday all trials will end.  But until then, I keep on keeping on.)

            I spent most of my life trying to be “grown up.”  I never liked the idea of being a child, even when I was a child.  It seems in most ways, I was always the “older one” or “the leader.”  I was the oldest of six kids.  I was one of the oldest cousins.  I always tried hard to do the mature thing, to live up to expectations, to be responsible, and to be in control of my emotions.  I led in our church’s youth group.  I was a leader on a summer mission trip to Papua New Guinea.  I always held a job.  I went to college and then grad school.  I tried never to act or appear child-like.  I always wanted to be older and more mature and to lead.
            And while this isn’t really a bad thing (being mature and responsible is a great thing), the Bible calls us to do something else.  Something I really didn’t want to do.  We are supposed to become like children.  Matthew 18:3 says, “And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”  
            I spent thirty-some years fighting this very notion.  I had no idea how to be a child!  What does being a child of God mean?  What benefit could there be in that?  And how do I get past years of trying to be an emotionally-reserved adult who needed to be in charge of everything?  This was so foreign to my nature. 
            I always thought it meant that we were supposed to trust and have faith in Him with ease.  And for so long, I did.  Too much ease.  I was coasting through life on my own wisdom and accomplishments.  I relied on myself and had my own plans and felt like I had pretty good control over all areas of my life.  But this isn’t what it means to be childlike.
            I hadn’t yet been brought to the end of myself.  I hadn’t learned what it was like to have faith and trust in Him during the storms of life.  I hadn’t yet learned how to rely on Him as a child relies on a parent.  I had a young, immature, untested faith.  When you are usually in control of your circumstances, how much do you really have to exercise your faith in someone else?   
            But God, in His wisdom and graciousness, did not leave me as that self-sufficient young adult who could conquer the world.  Several years ago, He allowed many trials into my life that completely destroyed anything I ever believed about myself.  Economic, relational, housing, and medical trials, among others.  One after another.  One on top of the other.  And they broke me and brought me down to a level I had never been to before.  Everything I ever had confidence in was shaken, including myself and God.  I learned that I didn’t have the answers and the strength and the wisdom that I thought I did.  I didn’t even know left from right anymore. 
            And it was in struggling through this newfound lack of confidence that God began to open my eyes to some areas of my relationship with Him that really needed work.  (Which I’ll get to as we go along.)  And I know that I would never have been able to see them without the trials, without the painful heat of the refining furnace.  Because it was this time in the furnace - the years of trials - that finally made me realize that . . . I was tired!  I am tired!  I am really tired of trying to keep so many balls up in the air.  I’ve always tried to maintain a tight grip on everything, including areas that never should have been mine to control.  And it was exhausting me.   
            But those difficult years made it possible for me to . . . No!. . . they forced me to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own any longer.  I needed a Father.  Despite my deep need to be in control and standing on my own two feet, I really did want someone bigger than me to hold me, to keep me safe, and to take charge.  I really did want to admit that I couldn’t do it all.  I really did want to be able to stop trying so hard and to say, “I don’t know anything.  But that’s okay, because God does.”  I just didn’t know it yet!  
            And, ironically or not, it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I finally began to understand what being a child meant.  There is just something about being responsible for a whole other human being that makes you feel more insecure than ever before and that drives you to your knees like never before.  I have never felt weaker in my life than when facing a trial concerning one of my children.  And it was a trial with one of my children that finally taught me that I didn’t have all the answers.  In fact, I had none of them.  And the only way for me to get through it would be to learn to let go of the control that I so dearly hang on to and delight in.  And to trust - really trust - in Someone bigger than me. 
            I had to learn how to be a child, after I had fought being a child all my life.  And I didn’t have a “daddy” as I grew up.  I had step-fathers, but not a “daddy.”  So I never learned to rest in the care of a genuine father, to live in his love.  How do you trust in a Father when you didn’t grow up in a stable home?  When you never learned to trust that a dad really cared about you?  This would end up being the hardest lesson of my life to learn.