Then Jesus called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven…” – Matthew 18:2-3
Every Sunday morning I enjoy the privilege of leading an adult-ed class at our church, Wake Forest Presbyterian. While there is nothing better than being together “in-person,” Zoom is – in one way – helping me to be a better teacher.
I’m talking about the PowerPoint presentation I create every week that not only outlines the class but helps keep me on track. It includes photographs, scripture references, questions for discussion, and key points I want to leave with people as “take-aways.”
I also type out the opening prayer. And – as good as I am at praying “on my feet” – I tend to mine down to another, deeper, level when I pray this way. I’ll use Sunday’s prayer to kick off this morning’s post.
Loving and most gracious heavenly Lord, we approach you this
morning caught sometimes between faith and doubt, often
between assurance and trepidation, frequently between joy
and sadness, always between belief and unbelief, and – lately –
vacillating between confidence and concern. So we pray that
you meet us where we are, and that you renew a childlike faith
in us that is rooted in the lifelong knowledge of a God who we
can count on because, well, we see this truth played out again
and again. You placed children front and center in your ministry
and your teaching, because you understood how much they can
help us all grasp the substance of faith. Reach into our old,
tired, cynical spirits today, please, and fill us again with wonder
and with anticipation and with trust. In the name of Jesus, who
is the most compelling reason we believe at all – Amen
We talked about children – and what we can learn from them about faith – because that’s the scripture pastor John was preaching from in worship (excellent sermon!). It was a good message, but what worked its way into my thinking most was the idea that the correlation between play and inventiveness (imagination, creativity, joy etc.) is not just a childhood development equation it is a spiritual truth too.
“Play,” C.S. Lewis once said, “is the serious work of children.”
Jesus invites us to child-like trust and enthusiasm:
In class I shared a story about a four-year-old girl who told her parents she wanted a few minutes alone with her newborn baby brother. They were reluctant, but eventually relented so long as the door stayed open. They peered in from the hallway as she approached his crib. “Baby,” she stage-whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “tell me everything about God; I’m beginning to forget…”
Growing up in this world tends to impose so many strictures on our development. If we are not careful we forget how to learn, how to play, how to explore, how to imagine, how to taste joy, how to love. We narrow our minds, tamp down our spirits, put a lid on our creativity, and restrict our relationship with God to a few formal hours every week or so and the occasional grace before we eat.
Make me like a child again, Lord, wide-eyed with wonder at all I discover and thirsty to drink in more. Feed my passion to experience God, and open up new vistas of delight at your world, your word, and your way. Grant me the courage to live and to love without reservation and to invite others to not only imagine the limitlessness of your joy but to immerse ourselves in the abundant life.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.