I rounded the corner to hear my son call my three-year-old grandson to come out of the woods behind their house. There was only a slight hesitation as the boy slowed, momentarily. “Put on your listening ears,“ my son warned. “I left them in the woods,” replied the child, and he turned to race the other way. I laughed that attachable “listening ears” posed no problem for his pint-sized imagination. In fact, he could just as well fancy the attachments hopelessly lost along a garden path.
Children are examples of faith, innocence, and unwavering trust. Jesus rebuked His disciples when they turned away the children that came for His blessing, (Matthew 19:13-14). In Matthew 18:10, Jesus spoke further of children when He said that “their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Children possess a powerfully pure and unrestrained love that is unimaginable among adults.
The Two-Dimensional World of a Child
A child’s drawing lacks a sense of depth; objects are drawn disproportionately. There is no evidence of planned composition. The details the child thinks to include are surprising and the items left out are equally curious. The colors are monotone and lack variation in shade. Nonetheless, even with all these “defects,” we would never call a drawing “Wrong!” and throw it way. It’s not inaccurate; it’s just imbalanced and incomplete. As a grandfather, I treasure most the art created with the tiniest hands imaginable.
“Imbalanced” and “Incomplete.” As harsh as the words sound, they are beautiful imperfections when they are found in a child. They are not flaws, but represent a potential for growth; these shortcomings are merely placeholders for the character into which the child will most surely grow.
“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:11-12 NASB).
Just like a child adding small measures of growth over time, we gain more of Jesus with each passing day. John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Christ’s guidance through each day imprints His character over ours, gradually supplanting the image of Adam with the compassion and Truth of Jesus. All the while we are longing to see Christ Jesus, He is increasingly found within us day by day. Time is the pitcher from which God pours the character of Jesus into us.
Putting Aside Childish Things
Children argue over rules; children disobey. They are prone to petty emotions of jealousy, selfishness or outbursts of anger. Children are capable of taunting, bullying, and manipulating the truth. We expect such things of children. But I have put away childish things. The Holy Spirit is at work in my life to help me no longer think, speak, or act as a child.
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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB).
As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, he lists ministries of God that have been given to build us up and join us together in Jesus. Daily, we are called from our spiritual childhood into the maturity of Christ.
“for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:12-16 NASB).
Several weeks ago I was preparing to make my weekly blog post. As is often the case, I was struggling to get the words and the message just right. Sensing the tension, my wife prayed in another part of the house, “Lord, help Joel to think clearly.” She was surprised to receive an immediate response. “He doesn’t need help thinking. He needs help hearing.” Point taken. As it so often goes, I humble myself and retrace the paths of my life, looking for those lost “listening ears.”
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