“And he said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 NIV
“Aren’t you going to read the bible to us, mom?” This is the nightly plea from my 10 year old son, dare I forget or run out of time for our night time ritual. As I sigh that mommy’s-so-tired sigh I can’t help remembering. This very same ritual, from my childhood, was just as vital to my spiritual and mental peace as I dosed off too. Bible stories, prayers of gratitude and for protection from falling trees (we had a huge pine tree in the back yard) and for God’s angels to encamp themselves around us. There was the sign of the cross before and after prayer, the cross on the wall. At age 6 I decided I wanted Jesus to live in my heart. My faith in God was so very comforting and integral to me. Even growing up in the midst of a broken relationship between my parents, I felt intensely beloved and secure. That was almost three decades ago.
With the challenges that come in the whirlwind of adulthood those memories of simple faith often seem so distant. Praise God for my sons who remind me that God himself beckons me to a simple faith, like a little child.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
I confess, I struggle with anxiety and depression. The latest bout landed me in my doctor’s office. Apparently your body can feel physical pain when your mind is thinking painful thoughts. I’ve been literally worrying myself sick. Sometimes I feel hopelessness in a world seemingly racing it’s way to total destruction at the hand of man. I have worries about my family’s future and my livelihood on top of the everyday stressors. It all seems like a burden too heavy to bear at times. And so my body reacts accordingly. One night when I was driving home from work, I felt the need to cry out to the Lord. I asked him to increase my faith. Amidst the tears I immediately felt assured that he would.
Recently, my sons (ages 11,7 and 2) and I had been reading through the teachings of Jesus in the book of Matthew. We had been reading through Matthew 6 for a few nights. Something unexpectedly amazing happened when we came to this passage:
“When you fast do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast put oil your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your father that is unseen; and your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV
My bouncy seven year old son who is very well known for having ants in his pants during bible reading and prayer then asked, “What does fasting mean?”. I explain that it means to sacrifice your body by denying yourself food in order to grow closer to God. Immediately he decides that he wants to fast. “Me too!” chimes in my 10 year old. “Uh, how long do I have to fast for? Can I drink water?” both boys ask with a bit of worry but equal genuine curiosity. I answer them that they can fast for as long as they are led to by God and explained the different ways and time frames that people have fasted for. I started by reminding them of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days before starting his ministry. Others, I explain, may perhaps start by denying a meal. That, they decide, is what they would do. So it was decided that they would skip breakfast and break the fast at noon. I thought, “Boys skipping breakfast? The most exciting meal of the day?!”.
We prayed and asked God to help us all fulfill this fast, yes, mom was going to fast too! The next morning we all awakened excited. Excited that together we were growing closer to God in a tangible way. As the hours went by hunger was setting in. At 11:30am my seven year old suggested I start making breakfast because he was ” ‘weally, ‘weally hungwy!” At noon we broke our fast by thanking God for giving us the strength for this first fast and asked God to strengthen us for longer fasts in the future. “We’re going to be fasting more in the future”, my seven year old informed his big brother. As soon as they were done with their meal my boys went on with their day as usual. They expected nothing more than the joy of growing closer to God by having made a small denial of themselves for the Lord.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV
My sons have helped me truly see that with making time to read God’s word and simply practicing what it says come heaven sent blessings of joy, comfort, security, peace…rest. I realized that I wouldn’t expect a child to bear the weight of the world, neither does God expect this of me. I pray with my children, seek God’s word and will with them. I’m careful not to watch the news in front of them. I monitor their very limited internet access carefully. I’m mindful of adult conversations around them. I don’t want my sons to carry any unnecessary mental, spiritual or emotional burdens so that they may live joyful childhoods. I believe that my father wants the same for me.
So that’s what I’m doing for myself. Spending more time in prayer and seeking his word. I’m choosing not to watch the news so closely, I’ve drastically cut back on social media. I’ve trimmed my email alerts so I am only alerted of the issues that I believe God is calling me to focus on right now. I don’t constantly carry my smartphone on me. Most of these actions have some drawbacks (or should I say withdrawals) but mostly they are contributing to my finding God’s will for me. I don’t intend to bury my head in the sand and live in a bubble. Rather, I hear God calling me to dispel any unnecessary burden the enemy wants to place on me.
I’m so thankful to God for my boys who remind me to read God’s word, slow down and practice his instructions with a simple, childlike faith, just like when I was a little girl. I am feeling a lot more peaceful these days, I pray you will join me.