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Being a Child of God...as an Adult

August 11, 2020   Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin (Lectionary: 414)

Reading 1   EZ 2:8—3:4

The Lord GOD said to me:
As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you:
be not rebellious like this house of rebellion,
but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me,
in which was a written scroll which he unrolled before me.
It was covered with writing front and back,
and written on it was: 
Lamentation and wailing and woe! He said to me: Son of man, eat what is before you;
eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.
So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Son of man, he then said to me,
feed your belly and fill your stomach
with this scroll I am giving you.
I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.
He said: Son of man, go now to the house of Israel,
and speak my words to them.

Responsorial Psalm   PS 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

R. (103a)  How sweet to my taste is your promise!
In the way of your decrees I rejoice,
as much as in all riches.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
How sweet to my palate are your promises,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
R.  How sweet to my taste is your promise!
Your decrees are my inheritance forever;
the joy of my heart they are.
R.  How sweet to my taste is your promise!
I gasp with open mouth,
in my yearning for your commands.
R.  How sweet to my taste is your promise!  

Alleluia   MT 11:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. 
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost."

By Abbey Smith 

I heard today’s Gospel passage cited many times throughout my life. Yet, nobody ever explained to me what it tangibly looks like to become like a child in my relationship with Christ.

As I prayed over this, I came up with several characteristics of children that gave this concept more shape.  

Being a child means being small.  As a child, everything feels huge. 

Being like a child to Christ means being in awe of all that is much larger than I. 

Sometimes there were big things in my life that scared me, and I had to trust my parents when they told me not to be afraid. Being a child to Christ means trusting that He knows better than I do, especially when it comes to big scary things.
As a child, I often felt smaller than my emotions. Kids don’t usually know what to do with big emotions, which is one reason they have tantrums. When I was little, I used to think that it was best to hide when I was upset, because adults had too much to worry about already, without my problems on top of that.
Two things I learned about that:

  1. This literally never solved any of my problems. 
  2. It isn’t a child’s job to set boundaries for adults. How often do I, as an adult, decide what God’s limitations are?

God invites me to stop putting limits on Him, and to instead show up in our relationship as my entire self, tantrums and all. God can handle my anger, sadness, confusion, and frustration. He isn’t afraid of my humanity; He loves it. God is a caretaker who will never shame us for our big emotions, but instead will remain steady and supportive as we work through them.

Being a child means needing rest.  If there is anything I learned in therapy, it is that rest looks different for everyone. Sometimes, rest for me looks like watching ‘The Office’ and taking a nap. More often, my rest looks like hiking, painting, or journaling. However, it turns out that I’m not very good at resting! American society doesn’t place much value on slowing down, so taking time to restore myself frequently seems like a radical idea.

I can’t navigate the ups and downs of daily life, let alone build the Kingdom, if I am not taking care of myself and resting as much as I need. 

Being a child means needing play. Sometimes I think that play and rest are one in the same. Play for me looks like hiking, painting, biking, spending time with loved ones, going to concerts, trying new coffee shops, and chatting with strangers. As I reflected over this Gospel, I thought to myself, “How can I be playful in prayer?” When was the last time I raced Jesus down that big hill on my bike ride? Had tea with Him? Read my book out loud to Him? 

Jesus always shows up when I invite Him to play and rest with me. He loves hanging out! Sometimes we eat chicken wings and drink chocolate milk together. Sometimes I sit at the base of my favorite waterfall and listen to Him tell me stories in the rushing rapids. Other times, we nap together and drink coffee over a chat after. Whatever it is, I always find play to be more rejuvenating when I let down my walls enough for Jesus to say, “Hey, let Me meet you right here in this need.”

Sometimes I picture Jesus and I both as little kids. I’m inside reading, and Jesus is pleading through the screen door on my side porch, “Pleeeeease, Abbey! Please come out and play! I just got a new bike and I wanna race it! Please, please, pleeeeease! Come play with meeee!”  He so badly wants you to take His hand and run barefoot through the grass with Him. He so badly wants to play! 

Being a child means growing.  When I was little, I used to constantly measure myself to see if I grew. While my younger brother had multiple growth spurts that shot him up to a nice 6’, I was on a slow, steady, barely-noticeable climb to the glorious 5’1” I am today. Comparing my childhood growth to my brother’s never made me any taller. Likewise, Jesus reminds me that comparing my spiritual growth to that of others’ does not bring me any closer to Him. Jesus invites me to have grace for myself and others when it comes to spiritual growth, remembering that He made us all completely individual, and there is no wrong way to grow.

Being a child means needing a caretaker.  I think I’ve never been able to fully be like a child to God, because I expect God to act like a human caretaker.

I expect God to get overwhelmed with my questions and stressed out trying to meet my needs.

I expect that I can’t fully trust Him enough to tell Him my thoughts and desires; that He won’t be able to hold space for them, and I will have to become my own caretaker. I expect Him to let me down.  So, instead of showing up as a child in my relationship with Christ – walls down, wishes on my sleeve – I save us both the trouble and sometimes don’t even show up at all.



But here’s the thing: God is not a human, so He doesn’t parent like one. God is not a caretaker who makes mistakes. God will ask me to do my own work in our relationship, but He will never ask me to do His, too. Jesus sees where my inner child has built up walls to protect myself, and He gently encourages me to start tearing those down. He wants to show me that He is trustworthy, reliable, and graceful. Jesus invites me to allow Him to redefine parenthood, in whatever unique way I need it.

On the days when I feel like the lost sheep from today’s Gospel, Christ invites me to embody childhood, show up as my whole self, and collapse into His arms, trusting that even if I’m lost wandering the mountains, He will meet me right where I am.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Abbey Smith is currently a graduate student pursuing her MSW at Case Western Reserve University. Living just outside Cleveland, Abbey is Ohio’s biggest fan! If she isn’t creating or reading, it’s guaranteed you’ll find her out hiking the Cleveland Metroparks.  Abbey’s spirituality is deeply rooted in nature, and imaginative prayer is her favorite. She is a published poet, lover of tea and tattoos, and is always ready to talk about the intersection of faith and social justice. Find out more about her here.

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3 comments

  • Wow. What a reflection. I’ve always struggled to wrap the idea around being a child in front of God and Him being like a parent to me having dealt with years of abuse from my own parents. This reflection was like a balm to soothe the wounds I haven’t healed. Thank you for sharing this, Abbey!

    Chelsea
  • Thank you for this. I just had a major meltdown/tantrum yesterday and this reminder that God can handle it all was reassurance I needed to remind me that I’m not a burden to Him. Blessings to you!

    Melissa
  • I just wanted to thank you- this touched me deeply in a way I didn’t know I needed. You laid out my burdens so perfectly, and in some sense, what a joy it is to know I’m not alone. Thank you for sifting through your wounds so I can recognize mine and begin to heal. ❤️

    Hannah Hammons

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