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Samantha Stephenson shares how our children’s confident requests teach us to trust in the goodness of God. 

"Book!" says my toddler as he hobbles along, dragging a board book behind him. I take it from him and gather him onto what's left of my lap, shrinking away as the new baby grows within it. He smiles and bounces excitedly—his way of letting me know that I'm getting it right. This is how he gets my attention, by pressing himself into my hands. He insists.    

In the morning, after naps, he cries out, "Mamma, out!" I pick him up. "Mamma, go!"    



"Cuddle!" (my favorite)   

The demands never cease. Nor does his confidence that I will respond. I am his mother, giver of good gifts. No need is too small. He voices them all, grabbing my finger and leading me when words fail him.  




How often do I turn to God with this kind of confidence? I like to think that I do, but if I'm honest, more often the undertone of my requests in prayer is doubt, not trust. Not doubt that he hears me. Worse—doubt that He cares. I know I don't earn His love. God’s affection and yeses in prayer are not dependent on the holiness of my soul. I know it in my head, but as a friend is fond of reminding me, the distance from our heads to our hearts is one of the longest to travel.    

Yes, my prayers float like lilies on a pond: beautiful, blooming graces unfolding, floating in serenity. But doubt lurks just beneath the murky surface. Doubt that my little concerns matter. Doubt that I deserve Him. Doubt that I really want His definition of "good" for me instead of my own. The pond beneath those lovely lilies is murky with mud.    

The soul of a little child is, I think, more like a spring than a pond. Grace flows and does not stagnate. Sometimes only a trickle, but it is pure. This is what Jesus means, I think, when He asks us to become like little children. Not to whine, make messes that we refuse to clean up, or steal toys from our brothers; there is plenty of “rocky ground” for His grace to smooth away over time. 

To be like little children means to turn to Him in all our need, to name those needs with expectation. We, even more than our children, have reason to expect His good gifts. Look at all He has given us. Despite His stellar track record, we still struggle to trust.  


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The secret that little children understand, the one that we forget, is that everything we have is a gift. It comes not by our own efforts, but at the grace of another. They don’t hesitate to ask because they aren’t trapped by the illusion that they have built their own good fortune. They, unlike us, know well their true littleness. And so, they don’t hesitate to reach up their hands. They know that all good things come from above. Their witness teaches us to look up, reach out, and trust. 


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Copyright 2024 Samantha Stephenson
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