“Rachel, look! A DUCK!” I heard six-year-old Sawyer call out in a giddy voice. Strangers nearby likely assumed Sawyer had never seen a duck before, though it was actually one of many he had seen that day.
As a nanny, I have watched countless adults smile knowingly at the two children I care for, as if to imply that they understand all children. Sometimes, their glances carry a sense of condescension; they view these children as naïve and unaware of how life really is. It’s as if they’re saying, “They sure are cute, but how little they know.” Ironically, I have learned more from these “naïve” kids than I could teach them in four months as their nanny.
Jesus tells us that childlikeness is a prerequisite for drawing near to God: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3–4).
This Sunday, notice the children around you at church for more than their bright smiles and tiny outfits. See their authenticity, their imitation, and their sense of wonder, and ask God to teach you how to worship him like a child.
Adults are skilled wall builders. Difficult morning at home? Mask your stress with a smile. Fight with a friend on the way to church? Suppress the hurt before walking through the doors.
Sometimes, a family’s morning shows most clearly on their children’s faces. Most children have not developed the ability to build walls. They wear their emotions on their sleeves, and if there is any uncertainty about how they are feeling, they will likely tell you outright if asked. They are authentic.
How many times have I approached the throne of grace with protective walls built around my heart? More times than I know. Corporate worship is a time for authentic vulnerability before God and others. We must come as we are, not fearing judgmental glances from others in the pew, but looking together to our gracious Savior. To Jesus, our walls are paper thin anyway: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews [4:13]).
As our walls come down with repentance, we are vulnerable and dependent, like crying infants unashamedly relying on their mother. No longer resting on our self-sufficiency, we cling to an all-sufficient God, knowing that apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
A friend of mine grew up watching his father work long hours at the church he attended. He was responsible for the upkeep of the building, and as a child, my friend did not understand that it was a blue-collar job. Untainted by the world’s definition of success, he saw his father as he was — a man with great integrity and a servant’s heart. He wanted to have the same job when he grew up.
We must ask for a childlike understanding of our heavenly Father. The glittering temptations of this world often hinder our ability to see him as he is. When we see sons and daughters looking up to their dads this Sunday morning, their admiration should remind us that God made us to know and imitate him.