How being like a clingy toddler is good

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He (Jesus) called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-3 NIV

One summer day when I treated Graham and his little brother to a day at Water Country in Williamsburg, Virginia, Wes got lost.  This experience scarred him for about four years. I had put Graham in charge of his younger brother when they went into the men’s locker room to change.

Seeing Graham coming out alone, I said, “Where’s Wes?” He turned around puzzled then responded, “I thought he was following me.” I quickly sent Graham back. I wasn’t prepared for what he discovered.  This changing facility had TWO entry points.  We figured that Wesleigh must have gone out the other door, which meant that Graham didn’t pay much attention to his brother like I had instructed. Being only five years old, I often placed young Wes under the supposed ‘watchful eye’ of Graham who was ten.

With this news that Wes was nowhere to be found, I panicked, prayed and ran around shouting his name. Even with a security guard helping me it took about fifteen minutes before I spotted my youngest.  He was walking toward me as though coming from the ticket takers. “Wes!!!! Where have you been?” 

This little kid had gone out to the parking lot thinking we had left him alone. I felt horrified just imagining him among the hundreds of cars.

Hugging him tightly, I rejoiced in God’s goodness.  What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional impact this event had on Wes.  He had experienced it as trauma.  For the next few years, each time I dropped him off at school in the morning, he would seek hearty assurance that I would indeed return.  Now a nervous child and fearful of being abandoned, he would press me for an exact time I’d swing by to pick him up.  The waterpark experience had transformed him into a very clingy child.

The other day, pondering Jesus’ words about being as a LITTLE child, I thought of that long-ago experience.  I imagined a three-year old clinging to his daddy’s leg, not wanting to let him leave.  Don’t little ones feel safe when they are in the presence of their parents?  They don’t want to let them out of their sight.

Jesus is teaching us to be like the toddler who needs that constant reassurance. Physical nearness represents safety.

Of course, we want our children to grow up and develop independence.  But what if Jesus doesn’t mean for us to outgrow our need to be that kind of close to him? What if he prefers that we remain children who crave his constant company?

May we retain the best of being a child and stay glued to our savior and older brother.

One thing is necessary


40. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations to be made. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!” 41  “Martha, Martha, the Lord replied, “you are worried and upset about many things. 42 But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.”…  Luke 10: 40 – 42

A new school year started last week.  My anxieties came back to life after their sabbatical of 2 1/2 months.

What is at the root of these worries?  What I focus on during the school day.  Here’s my list of concerns – those situations where I lack confidence, occasions that intimidate me a bit:

  • Will I be able to capture and hold on to the attention of middle school kids?
  • Will I be able to create and carry out effective and engaging lessons, which actually result in them acquiring French?
  • Will I have sufficient time in my school day to complete teaching, planning, grading and handle all those extra duties teachers seem to have?
  • Will I feel free to spend time with my colleagues, listening and encouraging them, all the while accurately representing Christ?
  • Will I be able to grow the French program in the Middle School?

Those 5 matters I have turned into individual and multiple prayers that I send up to God frequently throughout the week.  Better to pray than to worry, right?

Yes and no.

Reading how Jesus corrected Martha and how He described her sister, Mary, caused me to think again.  Maybe I have miscalculated where I should invest the bulk of my energy. Rather than prioritizing and investing all my mental energy on ways to meet all these challenges, I should focus first on what actually might energize me and provide life.

Luke’s account of the two sisters who have just lost their dear brother Lazarus prompted me to imagine what Martha’s list might have looked like (had she written down what caused HER stress and anxiety:

  • Oh no!  Jesus just showed up and with his group of guys, too.  I’ve been feeding well-wishers and mourners for a week now.  What am I going to serve?
  • I’m exhausted!  Where am I going to find the strength and energy to fix more food. And who is going to butcher the lamb, now that our brother is gone?
  • I was going to send Mary around to the family that supplies our wine because we’re all out!  But look at her.  She just sat down with the men to listen to Jesus!  Where’s her head!  With all this work to do?  Doesn’t she care about me?  So this is the way it’s going to be now that Lazarus is gone. I should have figured!
  • Oh, my – Lazarus IS gone.  How are we ever going to make it, two women alone?

What is Jesus’ response, the God who knows all our thoughts and cares?   Read the 4 statements at the beginning of this post.   Freedom calls me with those enigmatic words of His: One thing is necessary.

What is Jesus NOT saying?  Does he tell Martha to skip all the food prep?  No!  Hospitality is a good thing.  But ultimately it doesn’t rank # 1.  We CAN live without food.

But we can’t live without Jesus.

So what did I see afresh in Luke’s account of a very familiar vignette?

It was how I evaluate a ‘good day’.  In past years, I’ve called it a ‘good day’ if I taught well. If I had a fruitful-for-the-kingdom conversation with someone.  If I completed my work.

But I can’t control any of those outcomes, hence my anxiety and uncertainty day to day.

So what IS necessary?  What is ‘the one thing’?

I can see more clearly how God has been moving me over the past 5 or 6 years to rely on Him throughout the day.  To look to and depend on His divine, supernatural Spirit for EVERY thought, word, action, and decision about the future.

Jesus and Paul challenged followers of Christ to stay ‘grafted in the Vine’, to ‘remain in union with Him’.  We actually are not meant to do anything apart from Jesus.  He even tells us we can’t.

  • John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.

So I have redefined what Maria calls a ‘good day’.  The one responsibility I have as Jesus’ lamb is to do all in His strength, aware of my position IN the Vine.

Teaching a ‘good’ lesson, completing my list, engaging in a fruitful conversation with a colleague – yes, these are important.  But I can’t control the outcomes.  Hence – perpetual anxiety.

But I CAN control my thoughts.  That ability is given to every Christian in whom lives God’s Spirit.

My goal and focus this school year is to rely on Jesus and seek to please Him that way. And when I forget my source for everything and start angsting about X, Y and Z, I can still please Jesus by repenting of sinful AND needless worry.  And call it a GOOD day!

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