Sunday, April 8, 2018

On youth, faith, and shame

- Youth is wasted on the young - 

We've reached a point in parenthood where sleep has become a great challenge.  Avalyn and Jude are definitely proving they are our children, revealing stubborn streaks that run deep.  Particularly when it comes to sleeping in their own beds.  And while we can tell there are times that they are fighting sleep as well as fighting sleeping in their own beds, many times they are fighting us simply because they are just not tired yet. 

Jude is ready to crawl around all over us to explore his room or is throwing teddy bears out of his crib, expecting us to throw them back in so he can do it again.

Avalyn can lay in her bed, asking a million questions as they come through her head, having imaginary conversations, and singing the new songs she is learning.

Meanwhile, Jamie and I are laying in the floor in their room begging them to go to sleep.  Honestly begging to go to sleep ourselves, just trying to get them to be quiet.  Our energy is gone; we're ready for rest.  We have definitely lost the ability to be night-owls, if we ever really had it.

Oh, to have the boundless energy of youth.  
To be young again. 
To have that endless curiosity and fascination with the world around us.
The blessings of the surprise of new discoveries.

And beyond the physical and intellectual benefits of youth, to return to that faith of our youth. To have that pure, innocent faith.  Without guile, without cynicism, without doubt.  Just faith.

If you ask Avalyn why she is beautiful, she will simply respond "Because God made me."  While there is so much truth in those words and so much that could be unpacked, the important thing to her is just "Because God."   No need for further explanation, no need to question.  "Because God."  She knows what she has been told and taught, and she knows what she believes and understands.  "Because God" or put another way, mere Christianity.

That's our calling.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, 'Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'  Mark 10:14-15

Now, I don't want anyone to misunderstand me and think that we are to accept blindly everything we are told or to rely on others to tell us what we should believe.  As we grow, we are given wisdom for discernment and are called to determine whether what we are taught is true and what is false (1 John 4:1-6).   But when we know something is from God, we are called to trust in it like a child - fully, wholeheartedly, and with complete and utter abandon.  We are not to continue to test it, we are to believe in it "because God."

In reality, we are often the ones that get in the way of our own child-like faith and that of others.  We can substitute our wisdom for the divine, questioning the soundness of revelation.  We can allow the mundane and routine tasks to crowd out the miraculous appointments we may have.  We can allow social pressure or the fear thereof to prevent us from living the life we were created to have.

And sadly, we can often do these things with the best of intentions and even inadvertently.

A couple of years ago, we took Avalyn to Disneyland for her second birthday.  One of the little things that brought Jamie and I such joy from that trip was the way Avalyn pronounced "hotel", particularly when she would say "I want to go back to the hotel."  She gave it such a country drawl that it came out very exaggerated - "ho-tale" with a couple of syllables on the end.  And truly, it made Jamie and I smile every single time she said it and it did bring joy to our day.  We would imitate it, comment on how it sounded country, and how much we loved it, all in front of Avalyn.

Fast-foward a couple of months, to the next time we will be staying in a hotel.  In discussing with Avalyn, she is excited about staying in a hotel, but then in the same breath mentioned, "I know I can't say it right, but ...".  

My heart broke.

That little thing that brought us so much joy now brought her shame*, because we were reckless in how we spoke about it around her.  While we were honestly speaking of how much we loved it, we were not accounting for how she would process it or internalize it.  To her, we were just correcting her and pointing out something she couldn't get right.  

And with that, "ho-tale" was  gone.

Youth is fleeting.  The days of cute mispronunciations and challenging nights are but a speck in the grand scheme of things.  I know that the day is coming where we will beg for the nights where our kids fought to stay up and be kids, if for no other reason than to have that precious, uninterrupted time with them again. To have their undivided attention, free from the worries and cares that the world and its future is going to bring.

Child-like faith can be similar, if it is not cultivated and protected.  The days of "because God" can be choked by cynicism, apathy, intellectualism, business, hedonism, or relativism.   Any number of factors.  We have to guard ourselves and others from these in order to encourage and strengthen our faith.

My prayer is to appreciate the moment we have with our children.  To be more intentional guarding her childlike faith and restoring my own.  And to live that calling he has placed on me as a parent and as a follower.

Because God.

* For a really great exploration of shame and that moment we first learn shame, I recommend Jon Acuff's blog entry Thinking you're naked on Stuff Christians Like (  For me, it touched on one of those moments where you gain a greater understanding of God because of your changed position and was very impactful to me as I became a parent.

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