Saturday, January 17, 2015

As A Child

image used under Public Domain license,
photo obtained from commons.wikimedia.org
I'm on several mailing lists and in several Google+ communities dedicated to Kindle books, mostly discounted or free for a brief time.  One of the recent selections was a book of 1,000 writing prompts.  Because the blog is aimed primarily at spiritual and leadership topics, I'm not sure if even variations of some of the prompts will always be usable.  

The very first prompt caught my attention.  It says, "Describe an important item from your childhood.  Why was it important and where is it now?".  Some interesting questions.

Because of a number of operations that made the difference between whether I walked or rolled around in a wheelchair, there were periods where I wasn't going to be interested in things related to physical play, like the field or road hockey game in our illustration.  Perhaps my greatest companion was a radio.

When I was growing up, there were still a lot of radio dramas on the air.  There was a wide variety on Lux Radio Theater.  Or things like Gangbusters, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, and some comedy shows.  Later, when I was a little older, I had a shortwave radio that let me hear all sorts of programming from all over the world, each with its own peculiar angle because of culture and governmental influence.

What I really loved about those shows and times was that I was part of the creative process.  The script writers may have created the storyline, with dialogue and sound effects.  But, in order to "see" what was going on, it was my mind visualizing everything.  Remembering all that brought a couple of verses to mind.

1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Matthew 18:2-4 (KJV)  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Those two passages deal with seasons in a person's physical or spiritual life.  And they sound like they come to opposite conclusions, but do they really?  I don't think so.  Let me explain why.

In Corinthians, we see Paul saying that, as a child, his knowledge and comprehension were limited. Think about Paul's background.  He was a Roman citizen, besides being a Jew.  He had political status, despite being part of a conquered people.  Then, too, Paul was a Pharisee.  He was in a group that not only had a "Look at me." attitude, but expanded that with "Look at what I know.".  We could think of it as a double ego trip.  Everything about us, our environment and how others dealt with us was based on appearances, what we had done before, and what we do now -- externals.

Don't get me wrong.  As humans, we're stuck with getting our cues from external signs.  We aren't omniscient.  And we don't have the capacity to determine what's happening in someone's inner being.  So, external indicators aren't necessarily a bad thing, just limited in how they communicate with and benefit us.  Our education, knowledge, experience can only take us so far.

What about what Jesus is teaching in Matthew?  The two passages are related, but approaching the same thing from different angles.  Paul talks about mental, emotional, and spiritual maturation. Heading into adulthood in those areas.  Jesus is saying that, as we experience more, over time we allow too much to get between us and Him.  The conversion process has to peel that away so that we regain the wonderment of a child.

There are aspects of childhood we want to dump for better things and some we don't want to lose to worse "adult" or "mature" thinking.  And it highlights a truth we don't want to miss.  Let's try this with a verse from the Amplified Bible.

Hebrews 11:1 (AMP)  NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].


That verse is one we've all heard tons of times.  And, no matter what we think we understand that verse to mean because of what the English words say, it's very likely we're wrong.  Just as it might sound like Paul and Jesus are at odds in the two passages, both are actually pointing to the reality stated in our verse in Hebrews.  The difference between trust and faith.  Think with me on this one.

As a child we see things occur and we make conclusions based on that.  Our neighbor is gentle and kind, and they buy us candy.  Based on what we've seen and heard, we can't picture that neighbor being a bank robber, an abuser, or maybe a serial killer.  That's trust -- a conclusion based on our experience.  It's also the limitation of trust.  Unless we're really certain that our experience is typical, our trust could be totally misplaced.  Or at least limited to our own experience, but wrong in a broader sense.  Paul suggests we want to get beyond our limited understanding.

Jesus makes a different contrast of childhood and adulthood, without ever mentioning adulthood. He says we need to be childlike.  Not trusting by sight, but having a sense of awe and faith.  As we grow up, we become more self reliant, jaded, callous about the world around us.  When we're childlike, we see  things without a worldly filter.  And that's where we begin to see the difference between trust and faith.

Whether it's a math situation or a real life explanation, I think we've all heard "A+B=C".  With trust, A equals past behavior or experience, B is the present circumstance, and C is the outcome assumed because of the other two.  It leads to "A leopard can;t change his spots.".  There's an expectation that the past dictates the present and future, instead of influencing it.  That's trust.  It relies on sight.  Let's try another formula.

Let's say A is present circumstances, B is God in control, then C will be the right answer because God will give us exactly what we need.  That's faith.  The expectation is of an appropriate result, no matter what the beginning seems to point to.  Though we still have free will and God won't interfere with that, faith says the alcoholic abuser can become a Godly person, getting out of debt is possible, there's a possibility of fixing that struggling marriage,  The thief returns what they stole, possibly at a cost to themselves.  You get the picture.

Trust is limited by human understanding.  Faith is boundless and eternal.  Think of those kids in our picture playing a crew from the New York Islanders and still winning.  Or there was me, listening to a radio western drama on the radio as a kid.  When I saw pictures of where the story was supposed to have taken place, I was disappointed.  The scenery and terrain God showed me in my mind were far more beautiful and dramatic to the storyline than those limited by reality.

We start with Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.".  And build to "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." in Proverbs 3:6.  Trust depends on us, but faith gives us God's results,  Isn't that what we want for ourselves, going beyond the good of trusting God to the greatness of faith in who He is and what He'll do?

2 comments:

  1. I'm learning more and more about childlike faith. When we know Jesus and all of heaven dances and rejoices over us with singing, we can let go of our limited vision of God and have the scales removed from our eyes so we can filter life through childlike wonder. Childlike joy needs to be cultivated so that we don't live merely trying to get through one more day. Thank you for your post Bill

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  2. Thanks for the kind words, Dana. Often, I write about things I learned the hard way. So others can skip the "hard way" part. And I think that every time we get a vision for the possibilities it gets easier to get to them because we've moved our own negativity out of the way.

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