For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
Children are exhausting.
If you are a child and you’re reading this, please don’t be offended. I’m a child too. Everyone else my age is an adult, but I’m just in disguise.
But seriously. Young children are absolutely exhausting. This week is Vacation Bible School (VBS) at my church, which means 200+ young whippersnappers running wild throughout the building and a team of brain-dead leaders trying to keep everything under control. I’m an experienced children’s worker; the kids love me, and I love working with them. Yet even I’m completely exhausted at the end of each day of VBS.
Of course, because I am the kind of person that I am, I can’t merely accept the fact that children are exhausting. That would be way too easy. No, instead, I have to lay awake at night, when I desperately need to sleep, pondering the question of why children are so energetic, and therefore, so tiring. Hence, this post, which I am writing in the middle of the night during VBS week when any sane person would be sleeping more deeply than… I don’t know, something that sleeps deeply. I can’t say sleeping like a baby, because anyone who has any experience with babies knows that that’s the stupidest expression ever because babies don’t sleep. They cry.
OK, I’m rambling- what else is new? But honestly, have you ever thought about how much energy children have? They seem to run on a limitless of supply of power that keeps them buzzing throughout the day without any need to stop and rest. Which makes life very difficult on those of us that work with them, because we would love to stop and rest, but we can’t because there are fourteen children trying to use us as a jungle gym. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience; I’m just proposing a purely hypothetical scenario here. Children have a ton of energy. Which makes them really, really fun, but also very, very tiring.
That’s really why I love playing with kids so much. I’m inspired by the amount of life within them. Children amaze me. We think that we get “better” as we grow up; yet when I spend time with children, I realize that in many ways, growing up is a demotion. We lose so much when we let go of our childhood; the vigor and innocence and wonder of children is incredible, and one of the greatest tragedies of humankind is that we allow ourselves to let go of that when we “mature” and enter the adult world.
In fact, I believe that we have at least as much to learn from children as they have to learn from us. So today, I want to talk about just that: the lessons we can learn from children. I’m going to be breaking it down into three main points, because I’m a speaker and a writer and that’s what we do. First, I’m going to talk about childlike faith; second, I’m going to take a look at the wonder of childhood; and finally, I’m going to explore the vigor and life that fills the young. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
The first thing I notice when I spend time with children is how they connect and relate to God. As I’ve grown older, my relationship with God has become a lot more… muddled. If I was to post a relationship status on Facebook, it would say, “In a complicated relationship with God.” Of course, I’d have to have Facebook first… which I don’t, cuz I’m old-fashioned and I like to actually talk to people. But I digress.
By contrast, children relate to God in a really simple way. They see God as a father, and they are taught that He loves them, and that He has a plan for their life. Though they don’t understand the theological nuances of God’s nature, they understand that He loves them, that He died for them, and that He’s there for them. Their relationship with God is a simple and loving one. It isn’t clouded with doubts and complexities and misunderstandings. It’s a simple recognition that Jesus loves them. And that kind of faith is absolutely incredible. Though it is good to grow in knowledge and understanding of God, we so often allow our relationship with Him to grow more complex and less founded on a simple acknowledgment of His love for us. Jesus calls us to become like children in our relationship with Him; for no amount of searching and no amount of knowledge can ever make us know God. We can only know God by Him revealing Himself to us, as He does to the little children. In Matthew 11:25, Jesus says, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” And in Mark 10:14-15, Jesus says, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” We can only receive the truth of the Gospel with the heart of a child; we can’t try to understand it, or pay it back, or find our own way through. We can only accept the love of God as a gift. And that’s something every one of us must learn from the children.
Another amazing thing about children is the wonder in their eyes and hearts. As we grow old, we become jaded by the world and lose sight of the splendor of creation, the beauty of life and everything around us. We see the sun set in liquid golden majesty every night, yet we close our eyes to the beauty of it because we see it every day. We hear the sweet song of the birds greet us each morning, yet it so often falls on deaf ears that have forgotten how beautiful that song truly is. We have allowed ourselves to lose the sense of wonder that fills young children. Unlike adults, children wake up every morning with bright eyes and hearts filled with joy at the incredible world around them. Every day is fresh and new and exciting; every tree is a masterpiece, every raindrop is a story, every stone whispers secrets of ages long past. Children see the wonder of the world.
At VBS, we ask the children to write down “God sightings-” things that they have encountered that remind them of who God is. For the most part, they’re very simple things; “I saw a tree today,” a child will say, or “My cat had babies.” Boring things. Everyday things. I used to think these God Sightings were silly ones that children should grow out of; when they get older, I thought, they’ll understand more and have “better” God Sightings. But recently I’ve realized how incredibly wrong I’ve been to think that way. As I’ve grown older, I’ve allowed myself to lose sight of God in so many ways. He truly can be seen in the might of the trees or the delicate life of a newborn kitten. That’s where God truly shines: in His incredible creation. The life of a child is so much more exciting, so much more fun, so much fuller than the life of an adult, because children haven’t forgotten how amazing life truly is. No wonder they have such energy; they truly understand how much there is to live for. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Creation is screaming the majesty of God; it seems that only the children remember to listen.
Finally, children have so much to teach us about what life is. Children have so much energy, and I often wonder where it comes from. Yet when I examine what life is from the viewpoint of a child, I come to understand where their vitality comes from. Children connect with God the way we’re meant to; a simple, loving relationship. They see how exciting God truly is. They see the majesty and beauty of the world around them; they understand how incredible and mysterious a thing life really is. Simply put, they remember what they have to live for. That’s something most of us forget. We’ve allowed the life to be drained from us because we’re not strong enough to rejoice in the day-to-day. We’ve allowed the blessings of life that are repeated every day to become somehow monotonous. We drag ourselves through life like the man with the muck-rake, always looking down at the ugliness of the world and forgetting what lies behind us and before us. We’ve forgotten that life is beautiful. But the children remember, and God remembers. That’s why we have so much to learn from children: because they have so much more in common with our Creator than we do.
Perhaps my favorite quote of all time is from G.K. Chesterton, and I’d like to conclude this post with his words, because he says it so much better than I can.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”