I often think about all that my baby son Samuel needs to learn. In fact, my husband and I often laugh about how little he knows or understands. He is tiny, helpless, totally dependent. He can’t walk or even crawl yet, so he never gets to choose where he’s going. He can’t put on his own socks, and when he tries to feed himself, he picks up the food – mouth prematurely open – and sucks his hand, the food still safely lodged inside his fist. But as I watch him living moment to moment, I realise that actually, there is so much I can learn from him.
People often talk about the importance of living in the moment. Mindfulness is the new therapy for common mental health struggles. If we live too much in the past, focused on loss, we become depressed, and if our minds are constantly trying to control the future we are plagued with anxiety. Instead, we must focus on the present in order to find contentment. And this isn’t really a new idea. Although meditation is becoming increasingly fashionable, it’s been happening for thousands of years. Human beings crave an escape from their overactive minds. And no one is more present than a baby. In every moment, baby Sam is entirely focused on what is in front of him. He reaches out to enjoy the texture of a book in his lap and for that moment, he is engrossed in it. When we ride the bus, he is fascinated by the sound and feel of the engine, the passing scenery and the other smiling passengers. Unburdened by the past, and with no preoccupation with the future, he is able to enjoy the simple j of each situation. I often wonder how much I miss because I am worried about being late, or frustrated that I couldn’t get him to nap that morning.
Why is he able to do this? I believe it is because he is completely dependent on me and totally trusts me to meet all his needs. And experience has taught him that I will. He doesn’t cry to be fed all day long, because he trusts that he will be fed when he needs it, at the right time. When I pick him up he simply takes in what is around him because he trusts that I will hold him safely. In psalm 131, David likens his trust in God to a baby trusting his Mother: I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. David believes that God will provide for his every need, and just like a weaned child, he has learned this from experience. Imagine if we were fully able to trust God in this simple, yet profound way. Imagine the beauty we would enjoy around us. Imagine the needs of others we would see if our minds were freed from anxious thoughts or wistful longings. And what is my testimony so far? What does my experience tell me? The Lord provides. I can trust him. He has always given me what I need.
Sam doesn’t know what’s in the food pouch I squeeze into his bowl or where we’re heading when I strap him into his buggy. But he doesn’t need to know or understand in order to trust me. So often, I consider a situation in my own life, or that of a friend, and I think, I don’t understand. I want God to explain himself. If I could just ask him what He’s doing, where He’s taking me, then I could trust Him. But we are called to trust God because he is God. In the same psalm (131), David says, I do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me. He knows he cannot begin to understand the mind of God; he is content to trust Him like a child. But more than that, what a comfort that David knows that the mysteries of God’s will and ways are wonderful. Whatever He is doing, wherever He is taking us, He is outworking good purposes.
When Sam first began sitting up, it was a wobbly affair. We would surround him with cushions, and soon enough he would topple over. At first, he would wriggle about trying to get himself back up but after a while he realised this wasn’t possible. Soon he didn’t bother trying to get himself back up, and would immediately cry for help when he found himself on his back. In the same way, we must learn to cry to God in our distress, and the sooner the better. So often, we first try to fix things ourselves, and go down every other avenue before we bring it to God. We like to feel in control – we don’t want to feel like helpless babies, wholly reliant on our Father. Yet dependence on God is the only way to find contentment as a Christian. The quicker we can learn to depend on Him, the quicker we can get off our backs and sitting up again.
When Sam was very young, I couldn’t find a way to vacuum our place without upsetting him. The loud noise frightened him, and he would begin wailing loudly. I thought perhaps he might feel better if I vacuumed further away from him, but he would wail even louder if I left the room briefly with this terrifying contraption. In the end, I discovered that if I carried him in the sling as I vacuumed, he didn’t mind. I thought the noise would still upset him, and he was certainly still wary of it but he felt safe with me. Whatever the threat, he knew I had him. Likewise, sometimes it is enough to be reminded that we are being held in the Everlasting Arms. The situation we are in may not change just now, but whatever the threat, we are safe if we are with our Father.
Of course, no analogy is perfect, and in many ways we cannot live like children! But I think there is a beautiful irony in finding wisdom in the ways of little ones. Our very salvation depends upon receiving the gospel like a little child. (Luke 18:17) When his disciples are surprised to hear children singing praises to Him, Jesus reminds them of the words in Psalm 8, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise.’ And the truth is, in my heart I am still a little child. I am fickle, forgetful, foolish and fearful. But thankfully, God does not tell me to try harder, do better, grow up. He calls me to depend, to trust and to be His little child.