Complicated

The Simplicity of a Child

Breckin declares his jealousy over our dog’s life on a biweekly basis. Usually it’s in the morning before school, when he’ll glance up from his breakfast to spot her snoozing in her bed, and say, “Gidgit is so lucky. I wish I was a dog. She just gets to sleep in and do whatever she wants.”

I’ve tried pointing out that while she does, in fact, get to sleep as much as she likes, she’s not exactly getting to do much of excitement or interest throughout the day. For starters, she’s very old and tired. Additionally, without opposable thumbs the world really isn’t her oyster. I’m not sure she’s living a life worth envying.

Ironically, as he’s sitting at the table envying the ease of the dog’s life, I’m often sitting across from him and Ellington envying the ease of theirs. Sure, they’re about to go to school for the day. But compared to my adult life, it seems they can sleep in and do whatever they want.

They don’t have to think, “What are we having for dinner tonight?” They simply have to show up at the table. They don’t have to worry about getting laundry done or house repairs or budget conversations. Their weekends are theirs to simply roll into at their own leisure.

Simplicity is what I miss most about being a kid.

I know some of us experienced hardship or trauma as a child — but generally speaking, those younger years feel safer, more secure. Relatively easy and carefree. We weren’t yet worried about appearances, we didn’t have to hustle to keep up, we weren’t buried under a growing list of to-dos and responsibilities.

And for those of us who grew up in the Church, even our faith felt simpler. When I was younger I knew God loved me, I knew Jesus provided forgiveness of my sins, and I knew that the Spirit lived inside me. This was it. This was enough.

My parents would pray with us every night. Bless their hearts for not squelching our long and, I’m sure, repetitive prayers. We never felt that our prayers needed to impress. We just knew we could open our hearts to God. We never questioned if God hears our prayers, if our prayers matter, or the theology of God’s providence. We just knew He wanted to hear from us, He cared. Simple.

Similarly, we didn’t question God’s forgiveness. I never wondered if God really loved me — of course He did, He said He did. I never wondered if He would forgive me — of course He did, He said He would. I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I knew I was perfectly loved. Perfectly forgiven and made clean. Simple.

Somewhere along the line though things change. We bump into some harsh realities about other people’s expectations, we come face-to-face with variant and conflicting opinions, we find ourselves under all sorts of pressure to perform and perfect someone else’s version of a Christian life. Suddenly it’s not so simple anymore, and we launch into adulthood with a tangle of spiritual baggage, bogged down from the weight of it all.

Resting in God’s love and forgiveness doesn’t cut it anymore. A good Christian needs to begin every morning with extended Bible study and prayer. A good Christian needs to be in church several days a week, serving on multiple volunteer teams, and attending any offering that promises to be deep. A good Christian ensures her children know and use Christian jargon, memorize copious amounts of Scripture, and feel comfortable praying out loud in front of church groups. A good Christian always smiles, never yells, always gives, and never gets tired of it.

We make faith too complicated.

We may even deceive ourselves into thinking that our spiritual life is deeper, more holy, if we attend all of the events, learn all of the theology, and master the art of thoughtful pre-meal prayers. But we couldn’t be more wrong. When the disciples were arguing over who would rank highest in God’s kingdom, Jesus says this:

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. — Matthew 18:3-4 MSG

Remember when we weren’t obsessed with proving ourselves? Remember when we didn’t worry about if we were doing enough to keep God happy? Remember when we could rest in God’s love without a mental tick list of religious to-dos? We can return to those simpler times, simpler ways. We can return to square one.

This doesn’t mean that we should halt any “religious” related activities. Volunteering in our churches, serving meals to the hungry, studying our Bibles — these are all good things. These are enriching and natural practices in the Christian life. But when we try to place our security, value, and our identity as God’s children in our ability to keep up a routine, rather than in Christ alone, we’re carrying a burden too great, never intended for us. And all of this heavy lifting doesn’t amount to anything in the end.

In fact, 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that we can keep up our religious routine, impress our peers, teach Scripture, feed the poor, and yet if our actions are rooted in just that, actions, it’s all worthless. We will never find rest in the routine. We will never find peace in these practices. These things can only be found in and through God. Paul points us to the source at the end of the chapter,

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:13 MSG

Faith, hope, and love. It’s simple. It’s square one. Let’s return to our roots. Let’s start there.

Excerpted with permission from The Bright Life by Jen Wise, copyright Jen Wise.

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Your Turn

Have the years and the work and adult disappointments complicated your faith? What is holding you back from childlike faith and trusting in God alone? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Jen Wise

Jen is happy to spend most days rotating between friends, family, writing, cooking, and her neighborhood yoga studio. A color enthusiast, obsessive foodie, and compassionate theologian, Jen holds an MA in Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and develops curriculum for a variety of churches. She lives in Philadelphia’s Main Line neighborhood with Jon, and their two sons, Ellington and Breckin. Connect with Jen on her blog, restorationliving.org.

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