Making Sense of Children - B
Children are born with faith. God has placed faith within every human soul; this is a divinely appointed inner-sense. Man has pursued endless adventures to encounter this faith or conducted constant sin to quash it. Yet God's imprint of eternity remains in all souls. In the new-born, upon the infant there is a safety canopy over this implant - it is called innocence.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; (Ecclesiastes 3:11b)
The Seed of Faith
There is nothing dad can't handle, could well be the refrain of any four year old. By the time this infant is fourteen the refrain may well read like this - there is nothing dad can handle.
Faith decay is usually the path from childhood to adulthood (Matt 18:1-7). As children grow, as the shocks of living arrive and as the confrontations of mature thinking infuses each young mind the seed of faith both bleeds and becomes parched. Sophistication replaces simplicity and confusion assaults the rule of previous confidence.
As their years lengthen children learn to protect themselves, form their own pesona and project their own desired image. The older they get the more they learn to pretend as their world moulds them to that which it approves of. Faith is not approved in a world that magnifies intellect and challenges faith's purveyors. A faith left untended decays with age.
A faith left untended decays with age.
While children grow they continue to erect their scaffolding for life, they no longer remain that small authentic image formed by the very hands of God. (I suspect that much scaffold is erected during the teenage years in the search for identity. This scaffolding may well protect each of us from the true identity that Jesus has for us as fruit-bearers for Him... remember John 15:16?)
I carry this image of a newborn, not yet knowing they are even alive, yet containing an undiluted and unpolluted view of God. This newborn is only informed by God’s image, the frame upon which each of us is made.
The starting point of faith is pure, which is a reason why Jesus will honor the child and not despise them. It is growing up, eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and indeed life itself that fractures and then erodes a pure and simple faith (1 Corinthians 10:20ff).
Children do not know to disbelieve, disbelief is in fact a learned activity. Children are (or at least should be) free from the hubris of religion, the reach of the scholar and the rejection of the pharisaic, for they do not know that man’s faith binds. In the unformed character, the developing body, the young heart of goodwill, the innocence of faith and an un-understood world lays the authentic child, scaffold free! Here there is no grasping (usually) or pretence just a joyful abundance of a faithful naivety.
... disbelief is in fact a learned activity.
Brennan Manning describes what a scaffold free life looks like - The faithful qualities of the child – openness, trusting dependence, playfulness, simplicity, sensitivity to feelings ... the unselfconsciousness of the child keeps us from morbid introspection, endless self-analysis and the fatal narcissism of spiritual perfectionism.#
Adults audit life, mask feelings, examine relationships and promote desirable self-images to present to their fellow man. Yet within the child and before God no man can wear a mask, no false self that escorts him through life will survive.
The unspoiled, unsullied, unpolluted child needs to triumph today if they are to ever to gain the freedom from the restricting scaffolding of a yesterday they erected for self-protection (possibly with very good reason).
The inhibitions of the spirit, the pursuing of the flesh and the person of pretence are all scaffolds we build to survive life as our faith is eroded and we falsely learn that God is not to be trusted.
Is Jacob's the Bible's greatest pretender? The path to favor he thinks is by not being himself, this is why he deceives his father - see Genesis 27. In Genesis 32 a broken, tearful and finally an honestly uninhibited Jacob wrestles God tenaciously across the Jabbok for blessing. Now grasping at God and not goods he admits his true self and finally receives blessing. There are few blessings that permeate scaffold in fact they are only barriers to blessing. In being your-self goodness is received. Finally the child that learned self-protection is no longer the father to the man. Jacob had again become God's man with faith restored and his false-self released. (In this wrestle Jacob admitted his true identity to God, no more pretending, no more scaffolds - see v27.)
To gaze into a child’s soul is to encounter a radiant humility, a pure trust and an unadulterated innocence that knows no pretence. There is just the self-abandonment of absent inhibition that can be completely led to slaughter or salvation.
In Mark 10:38-42 (this universally well-known passage) Martha acts with the clarity of a well protected/scaffolded adult, while Mary sits with the fresh openness and distraction of a child at the feet of her Lord. Martha needs to recapture her child within and not stress about the jobs at hand, as adults do so well.
What I have been made for is not how I have made myself.
What I have been made for is not how I have made myself. The faith we are born with is not the faith that adults hold unless they have humbled themselves and become like a child again. It was Mary who Jesus honored.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)
A child has no past and accepts life with a blind joy. His peers are his friends and his father always trustworthy. His emotions are an un-decayed responsiveness. He beams at delight and scowls at disappointment. Unfettered and uncluttered the authentic child is always present when the heart is very young.
A verdant faith (which God implants in all) becomes barren if assaulted or left unattended - spiritual growth then becomes arrested. Any unattended garden will have weeds, thorns and thistles that enter it. A child’s soul and spirit is their faith garden. Disbelief is the first weed sown in an unattended child's spirit and soul.
Adults, but especially parents are gardeners to the child’s spirit and soul.** Any arrested spiritual development is premature loss of innocence before the faith of the child is able to withstand the onslaught of the world. The seeds of a child's faith must be watered before they receive the heat of the day.
The seeds of a child's faith must be watered before they receive the heat of the day.
# p94 Abba's Child - Brennan Manning - Pub = NavPress, Colorado Springs 2002
** No wonder satan wants to destroy families - if the parents are absent, distracted or halved the opportunity for a child's faith to be watered is diluted or even lost.
For more information about adults, children and their scaffolding click here