We must be willing to keep seeing ourselves as God’s beloved child. This will be messy indeed, because it goes against the grown-up posture that we are taught to pursue in this world. There are some places, though, where we can learn about being God’s beloved child by reflecting back on our own childhood.
When I was a child I was curious about many things. I would sometime just sit in my backyard and look up in awe at the blue sky and the white clouds. I was in awe of grass, butterflies, and birds.
But then I got older. And it seems the older I got, the more my sense of awe began to diminish. I became less focused on being awestruck and more focused on becoming awe-inspiring.
It took me so long after becoming a Christ-follower to get that awe back. Now, as I venture more deeply into the life of a beloved child of God, I am in awe again—in awe of God’s creation, and in awe of the growing intimacy I experience with God. I am a different kind of child now, an other-worldly kind of child.
As beloved children of God, we never outgrow him. God is the King of kings. God is all powerful, all-knowing, and over all things. I will never get taller than God. I will never match the strength, power, love, grace, and wisdom of God. To follow Christ is to accept this childlike relationship with God.
A childlike posture can begin with how we spend time alone with God. One of the struggles I have had over the years was trying to figure out what devotional time looks like for a grown, seminary-trained pastor and organizational leader. I felt this pressure to have a significant plan with big outcomes that described my time with God.
If some well-known ministry leader talked about spending time with God up in the mountains, I thought that’s what I needed to do. But I don’t like spending time in the mountains that much.
If someone fasted for a whole month, I thought that to truly be God’s child I had to fast for a month. But when I struggled to fast for three days, I felt like a failure.
I feared that I wasn’t as spiritual as the other leaders I was reading about or hearing from. But then, during one of my doctor of ministry classes, a leader from a large missions organization shared how he spends a day a month alone with God. Before he even began, I prepared myself for the extraordinary examples he would provide. To my surprise he talked about spending time at his favorite coffee shop, going on walks, listening to jazz, eating at his favorite buffet, and taking naps.
I think my mouth was open long enough to swallow a fly if it had been buzzing around my head. Weren’t these examples too simple, too childlike? They didn’t sound very spiritual. But he shared how spending time God in this way gave him space to reflect on a variety of things: family of origin issues, ways in which he was leading, and the anger he had carried around in his heart for years. He had found his own personal rhythm for time with God, and God was killing him softly on a regular basis.
I was empowered by his words to find my own personal rhythms for spending time alone with God. I needed my own ways to experience God as “Daddy,” and to grow deeper in my identity as his well-loved son. I needed ways to experience a big God that were personally meaningful for me.
Right-side-up people are mindful of how big God is. We are mindful of what a big deal the mission of God is. But this takes place in ways that are intimate, and personally impactful, not in ways tailored to make other adults see us as super spiritual. My time with God may seem silly to others, but it’s my way of experiencing life as God’s beloved child.
In Killing Us Softly Efrem Smith invites us into the countercultural Kingdom of God right here in our midst, which is actively, relentlessly setting us and the whole world right-side up.