We moved to North Carolina last week. In the mountains. It’s about a three-hour drive from where home was. Three hours from family, friends and all the conveniences we had at our disposal.
This was a big move for us, but even a bigger move for our five year-old daughter. She’s always lived in close proximity to her grandparents and cousins. She’s only known one church. She had fallen in love with her Kindergarten class and best friend across the street. I anticipated this move to be too much for her. I expected meltdowns, tears and inconsolable sadness.
She has proven me totally, utterly wrong.
There have been a few moments of sadness. A couple tears about saying goodbye. A little bit of nervousness and apprehension about a new church, new school and new neighborhood. But this has all paled in comparison to what I expected the transition to be like.
She and God have surprised me completely.
At our new church, the pastor has been teaching a series called, “Abba Father.” For the few Sundays we’ve been there, he has emphasized how we need to mature as children of God by growing in our child-likeness. How we need to allow God to be the ultimate Daddy…to protect, guide and lead us. How spiritual maturity does not mean independence – rather, spiritual maturity really means total dependence on God as Father. Curling up in His lap. Allowing Him to lavish His love on us. Trusting that He’s gone before us to prepare the way we are to go.
God has shown me, in this short week-and-a-half how there is so much I can learn about becoming like a little child. And the primary model is right in front of me in a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, five year-old package. Jaana has modeled biblical child-like faith in the most pure way.
As I’ve marveled at the trust, faith and dependence Jaana has on us…God has shown me how I need to in turn model her attitude. She has basic, true faith in us as her parents. She has willingly followed where we have led her. In her inability to advance her own course apart from the help and direction of us, she has trusted implicitly that we wouldn’t bring her somewhere that would be bad for her. She rests in the knowledge that we’ve gone before her to check out the school, the church and people we’ll include in our lives. She takes refuge in the fact that if she has a sad moment she can curl up in our laps and feels free to express it. She trusts us to take care of all the details involved – finding a house, packing the belongings, withdrawing her from one school, enrolling her in the other. She at most times is clueless as to the work we had to do behind the scenes before we put her in the car and drove away. She just continued to live each day to its fullest, being completely present in each moment. Knowing something was coming, she just trusted us to take care of all the things she’s incapable of handling or even knowing about.
And we are to do the same.
In Matthew 18, the disciples were arguing over who would rank the highest in God’s kingdom. Jesus responded by saying, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me” (Matt 18:2-5, MSG).
Trusting God as Abba Father requires the exact same behavior of us, as adults, that my daughter has exemplified. We have to grow down, not grow up. I’ve been so focused on making sure Jaana’s transition was smooth and easy, that I forgot that God is making sure mine is, too. And so I’ve dwelled and focused on things He doesn’t need me to. Things He’s already tended to, and taken care of.
I have to willingly follow where He has led us. In my inability to advance my own course apart from the help and direction of God, I have to trust implicitly that He wouldn’t bring me somewhere that would be bad for me. I have to rest in the knowledge that He’s gone before to prepare the way…that He’s checked out the church and people we’ll include in our lives. I have to take refuge in the fact that I’m allowed to have a sad moment where I can curl up in His lap and have the freedom to express it. After all, there is always adjustment to transition, no matter how good the transition is. I have to trust Him to take care of all the details involved – helping me balance adjusting to a new place, continuing to work and preparing for a baby. I know I am clueless as to the work God has done behind the scenes before He put us in the car and protected us as we drove away. I just need to continue to live each day to its fullest, being completely present in each moment. I knew something was coming, and I have to trust God as my Father to take care of all the things I am incapable of handling, or even knowing about.
Like the disciples, I have to return to square one and start over like a little child.
I have to grow down.
“I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child, or you will never enter it.”
(Luke 18:17, NCV)