One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” —Luke 18:15-17, NLT
But when darkness comes and the moon is full, I don my safari clothing, strap a camera around my neck and become Serengeti Eddy, world famous wildlife photographer and Vacation Bible School star!
Move over, Bono.
Serengeti Eddy is the hapless, afraid-of-his-own-shadow, nature photographer wannabe whose nightly antics kicked off our church’s VBS program.
I love standing on a stage and making a fool of myself. The fool part comes naturally, of course. The kids laughed, we all had fun, but something happened that caught me by surprise.
By the second night of our 5-day program, children started greeting me by name as soon as they saw me. “Serengeti Eddy!” they’d cry, and then they would run over and give me a hug and pull me along so that I could meet their friends. They showed me their artwork. They introduced me to their stuffed animals. They asked me to take their photo and tell them all about my adventures in Africa. They confided in me. We played games together. We giggled and laughed.
In other words, they did what children do naturally. They trusted me. They reached out and took my hand. They suspended their disbelief. They offered me their love and friendship.
And they did it all so effortlessly it put me to shame.
In his book Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith, the late Mike Yaconelli suggests four obstacles that block adults from living the childlike faith that Jesus calls us to:
- The obstacle of dullness: we have made faith safe and comfortable, but the faith Jesus taught was radical and transforming.
- The obstacle of the dream stealers: we make a relationship with the living God into ritual and rules, quenching the work of the Spirit.
- The obstacle of predictability: we put God in a box, never allowing him to surprise us, challenge us, or show us something new, thus stifling the creativity of God.
- The obstacle of the banal: we become so immersed in our culture and in the material needs and wants of life, that we fail to live in abject dependence on God for every breath of air and every bite of bread.
Yaconelli offers this challenge to the dull, dreamless, predictable, and banal faith that most of us refer to as “Christianity”:
It is time to find the place where the dangerous wonder of faith can be discovered—a place landscaped by risky curiosity, wild abandon, daring playfulness, quiet listening, irresponsible passion, happy terror and naïve grace. In a day when most of us are tired, worn-out, thirsty, and starving for life and joy and peace, maybe it is time to become a child again.
I glimpsed dangerous wonder last week. Not in my own life, but in the joyous and expectant faces of little children.
What would the church of Christ look like if we actually had the faith of children? How would our faith be changed if we approached our God with naïve trust and dangerous wonder?
God, teach me what it means to have the faith of a little child.