God tells us that we are to come to Him with a childlike faith. I never realized before I had kids that the best place to learn about that was from watching my kids relate to me.
We have two young children who are 4 and six years old. On any given day they may come running to me crying, “Mommy I’m scared!” There are even still occasional nights when one comes to seek us out in our bed after a particularly bad dream. In times of fear we snuggle and talk through what they are scared of, then pray. Sometimes we have to do something to relieve the fear but most times just being near mom (or dad) is enough.
When the oldest learned to ride a bike with no training wheels there was, at first, a need for me to hold the seat and be right there. Then at the right time came the words, “let go” and off she went. A few furtive glances back let me know that she was still a little unsure for a while, but seeing me also reminded her that I was still right there and would take care of her if she fell. Every time we ride now she is more and more confident and needs only to be aware of my presence rather than physically right next to me.
One of our children is more prone to fear and often struggles with it when across the house in the bathroom alone. In that case all that is needed is for me to come and stand in the door. Sometimes even talking from the other room loudly enough that I can be heard does it. We haven’t been able to name this fear yet but I believe it is much like my fears of the boogeyman in early life.
As we are going about our days together I am often talking with them about the importance of not going anywhere with anyone that mommy or daddy has not given them permission to go with. We discuss not trying to help adults find kittens and that if anyone says anything about not telling mom or dad, the first thing they should do is run away from that person and tell us.
When either of them is afraid there is a strained looks on the face and they are often wide-eyed and deeply concerned. Precious little faces that let me know what is going on inside and tell me the depth of what they are afraid of. But that look usually only lasts a brief time because when they look at me they know that mommy is there and everything will be okay even if it doesn’t feel like it yet. By the time we are done working through the fear, which can involve anything from a short conversation from the other room to a good conversation about what is going on and some snuggles, their faces are bright and confident again.
These are such precious ages and I know that they are learning patterns for their whole life. We try to always remain conscious of the fact that when they come to us seeking comfort and guidance, the one they need more is God. If I were to simply tell them that the boogeyman is not real and send them on their way I would either be making them dependant on me to dispel their fears or simply leaving them to figure their fears out on their own. Neither is the best tool for the job in the long run.
As they grow the fears will become more complex and less easily dealt with than they are right now. But the tools to use remain much the same. Right now when they feel fear they seek out mom or dad and that is exactly how God designed it to be. Our job is to help them learn that throughout life they can always seek God in times of fear because He will be right there with them even when we are not. He will guide them as to whether it is a fear that needs to be conquered (like riding a bike), one that needs to be dispelled (like the boogeyman), or one that should be fled (like a stranger asking to help find a kitten).
In their adulthood, the world will likely be a place with even more things to fear than there are right now. But no matter how things change God’s Word tells us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9) and we know that we can rely on Him to guide us through anything we may face. We teach our children about God and what He has done throughout history because the God who brought Daniel out of the lion’s den, delivered Joseph’s family through his own slavery at the hands of his brothers, and saved the world from sin through an old rugged cross can surely bring each of us through anything we face. That knowledge gives us confidence and we know that when we bring our fears to Him and remember all the great things He has done the strained look of wide eyed fear on our faces can be replaced by a radiance that comes only from the deep joy and peace of knowing that God is with us and He will “never leave [us] or forsake [us].” (Deut 31:8)
There is much to teach our children and as we do, their simple childlike faith in us to cast out their fear can teach us what our faith in God should look like too.