A Brief Consideration of the Honesty of a Child as It Relates to Faith.

When I am being very “grown-up” in all the wrong ways, all replete with very me, honesty hurts.  Being real and true and genuine feels like carving out a little piece of my heart and offering it to another person, all the while praying I can put the piece back when the moment’s past, praying they don’t squash it to the point of being unusable.  That hope is foolish and often false.

I’ve been considering this a lot the past few days.  Sure, I was real.  But it wasn’t comfortable.  Days later, it still isn’t comfortable.  I’m wanting to get that piece back unmarred.  Silly me.

That’s not the kind of honesty I want to have.  I want a new kind of honesty.  Or perhaps it’s an old sort.  However you see it, whether as a new openness of youth or old (meaning “former”), I want back the sincerity of my childhood.  When I could be silly and authentic and transparent without brooding over what my friends thought of me.  Childhood allowed me to be open about who I was without fear.  “Fitting in” wasn’t a worry.  My friends might have preferred their dolls or toy cars or sports to my books and puzzles, but we could still enjoy one another’s company.  And I wasn’t so afraid to tell someone what they meant to me.  The openness of childhood made it easy to say to someone “you’re my best friend!” without worrying, “oh, but does she want to be my best friend? maybe I’m not her best friend, and this is all going to be very awkward now”.

Really, it’s funny to me how this idea has been a running bit in my life lately.  I’ve found that the most recent children’s books I’ve read offered up examples of this sort of friendship:  The Magician’s Nephew is a fantastic read, and I usually pick it up to read of the foundation of Narnia (gives me chills–good chills–every time).  That is why I read it this week, but I was struck by something else that has never really stayed with me before.  It was the friendship of Digory and Polly.  Such easy friendship there, and uncomplicated forgiveness (okay, not really, but as simple as it can be).  And the second book was Winnie-the-Pooh.  Because even though Pooh is very often a silly old Bear, he is so very loyal to his friend Christopher Robin, and C.R. is always so loving toward Pooh.  And the music that’s been on repeat lately has pushed it on me, too.  “I’ve often felt forsaken and certainly misused”, sang one song, and “I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered”.  Another crooned to me, as if the sweet tone of voice could make up for the devastating truth being sung: “as for your tender heart, this world’s gonna rip it wide open”.  My favorite author (can’t get through a post without quoting him) said “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken”.  The whole paragraph that thought came from has stuck with me since I first read it years ago.

I think it’s a very “adult” thing to want to get involved in people’s lives without getting scarred.  Who worries about scars?  Not the little ones. They in their wisdom run around and get dirty and scrape their knees and get back up again.  Life is about living, not wasting moments worrying about inevitable scrapes and bruises.

I want to be very like a child in my friendships in this sense.  If whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, then I pray for grace, that all of my life, my friendships included, would proceed from faith.  I want to act in faith when approaching community.  I want to proceed recklessly; I want to love my dear friends without considering the cost.  I want to love my sisters and brothers by being honest and true without caring how many times I might get a little trampled.  Because greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  And I want to begin by being unselfish, open, and genuine in the context of friendship (while still trying to be wise about it).  You may have my heartfelt honesty, then (literally, heart-felt).  Because friends, if I know anything, I know that all things work together for good.

I know this is not very thorough; to me it feels like an incomplete thought.  However, I meant for this to be brief, as the title says.  I just needed to write it out to understand it myself, and in writing it, found I wanted to share it.  Take it for what it is: I am merely thinking aloud (or whatever the written equivalent to “aloud” is).

Disbelief

Honestly?

I have very little trust in people.  Most of the people I once held dear have withdrawn, and that’s affected me more than I’m willing to admit.  You could stick around and invest in this friendship for ten years.  I’d still often wonder when you’ll walk away.  Truth is, I don’t expect anyone to stick around.  I don’t expect much from friends.  As genuine and sincere as they may be, there are times when I find myself wondering if even my dearest friends think anything of me at all.  I wonder sometimes if I mean anything to anyone.  Am I the only one who has such silly thoughts?

See, there’s this one little word that I just don’t always believe.  It’s “love”.  Love of family, love of friends.  I know that it’s necessary to any relationship that aspires to be genuine.  And I love my friends, I do.  I love them; friends, you are more dear to me than I could ever express.  But when it comes down to it, I don’t always believe that they have any fondness or affection for me.  I don’t often think of it so consciously, but I’ve been examining my heart lately and I’m coming to realize this.  I don’t call on anyone when my heart is anxious, when I feel fragile, when I’m depressed, when I so desperately need someone to cry to.  I rarely call anyone when these lies start cropping up, and I think that’s because I’m afraid they’ll be proven true.  (I’m not asking for any reassurance, I’m just explaining a little bit about where I’ve been lately.)

Even more honestly…

I haven’t spent enough time considering it to fully make this generalization, but it seems to me that perhaps the way we view our relationships with others has a little (or maybe a lot) to say about how we view our relationship with God.  A couple months ago it was revealed to me that I didn’t really believe that God delights in me, that God loves me.  Pastor Matt Chandler sermonized on this on New Year’s.  Calling his audience to pray more, he said “the main issue in our prayerlessness is that we have a problem believing and grasping that God like us, enjoys us, delights in us…  If I could start to ask about you… ‘Do you think God delights in, rejoices in, and enjoys you right now?’  I think if you were honest, that one would be harder to answer…  I believe that there are multiple reasons for our prayerlessness, but I think the predominant one is in the deepest part of our being we just can’t imagine that he delights in us, rejoices in us, loves us, is for us; it’s hard…”  That short little message shocked me. Matt’s words echoed my groanings, though I had not given words to those sentiments yet.

So I’m having to ask daily for God to overwhelm me with that truth, that he loves me, delights in me, cherishes me, is pleased by me, that I have found favor with him.  But God is faithful, and he has answered my pleas for proof.  Scripture, it seems, is bestrewn with verses telling of his love.  I saw it today in Ephesians, if you will look with me.  Verse 4-5- But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses…  Even when I was dead in my trespasses!  Matthew Henry said of verse 4 in his commentary on Ephesians: “Love is his inclination to do us good simply as creatures; mercy respects us as apostate and as miserable creatures… and that love of God is great love, and that mercy of his is rich mercy, inexpressibly great and inexhaustibly rich”.
Similarly, in Romans 5, Paul writes “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.  A couple days ago I was in Psalm 18.  I was reflecting on an event from a few months ago, and came to see through David’s words just how God had his hand on me in that situation, how he delivered me.  And when I came to verse 19, I was shocked.  Filled with emotion, I read and re-read the words “he rescued me, because he delighted in me”.  He rescued me.  In that awful situation, he rescued me.  Over and over again he rescued me.  When I was dead in my trespasses, he rescued me.  Because he delights in me.  It’s been a fight to believe that.  Daily I forget or doubt or disbelieve.  I believe I’ve whittled away the external reasons for my sorrow, and have gotten to the heart of it; I think this forgetfulness and disbelief is a key factor.  I’ve been pleading with God to remind me of his love and delight and favor daily, even moment by moment, because my spirit, once refreshed each morning, is sometimes doubtful by the evening.  Such short-term memory.  But I’m remembering more frequently these days.

Things may separate me from dear friends.  They may not always be true.  I think they are truer than my heart chooses to believe, but however genuine people are, they cannot always care with a perfect love.  Life and busy-ness and my sin and theirs may temporarily or permanently part us.  Some will choose to withdraw and walk away.  But that will not always be the case with every friend.  And far more reassuringly, it will never be the case with God.  I’m learning that he loves and he will not withdraw his love.

We were in Romans 8 this morning at DBSM, and I’ll leave off with the chapter’s closing verses:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)