Children: Living Parables
By |   February 13, 2012 |   in Family Life |   11 Comments

As I pondered the parables of faith that children have been for me, two images immediately came to mind. The first parable was embodied by my grandson, who is three, as we spent a day at an amusement park. I watched in amazement as he would ride the same ride over and over again, each time an infectious joy radiating from his face, and a quickness to his step as he ran excitedly through the exit at the rides conclusion just to get back in line for the very same ride. In fact, in some marvelous way his delight and joy seemed to be increased, not diminished by the repetition.

He was able to fully experience the same ride over and over again “for the first time” with the thrill and excitement that comes from not knowing exactly what will happen – each time there was mystery that birthed wonder, delight and joy. As I watched him, I began to reflect on the repetitious elements of my faith, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, the reading of God’s Word, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper—wondering why is it that I am unable to enter into these mysteriously dynamic practices, each oozing of untold possibilities, with the same excitement that my grandson displayed. Why do I not find myself inexplicably drawn to these practices again and again “for the first time” thrilled with the chance to do it again and open to what will happen this time—fully present to this familiar yet new ride of the Spirit?

The second parable that came to me occurred more than 30 years ago as I “swam” with my two-year old daughter—who was not much of a swimmer nor too fond of the water. This living parable has become for me a sacred icon, a window into the person of God, the mystery of faith. Our times in the pool consisted of her holding on to me for dear life, arms tightly coiled around my neck, her little body tense with fear while I had my left arm around her back, my right hand situated under butt supporting her. However, in her mind her safety was dependent on her ability to hang on.

Over time she learned to trust in my ability to hold on to her. As her trust grew so did her enjoyment of the water. Letting go of her death grip on my neck she now had a free hand and started to splash, her body relaxing, the furrow of worry melting from her brow, a smile enveloping her face, her silence of uncertainty replaced with joyous laughter. She could now enjoy the pool, freed from fear and able to experience joy. As I witnessed her transformation in that pool a passage came to mind from the Book of Isaiah. It reads; Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my mighty right hand.

Join the Conversation

What hinders/robs you of the ability to experience wonder, joy and delight in your relationship with God and/or the practice that are part of your adventure of faith? Share this with God.

In what areas of your life are you currently finding it difficult to trust God, to let go of your fear? Why? Share all this with God. What might help you to “let go” of your fear so that you might experience greater freedom in life?

Larry Warner:
Larry Warnerhas been married for over 30 years to his wife, Donna, and is the father of four children. He has a varied vocational background, having worked 11 years as a Youth Pastor, 6 years as a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, and 10 years as the Senior Pastor of a church in San Diego, CA.  He has a B.A. in Biblical Studies and a Masters of Theology. Larry is the founder and executive director of b which journeys with pastors, seminarians, church staffs, ministry leaders, churches and individuals who yearn for greater intimacy with God by designing and providing spiritual formation experiences which unleash and cultivate holistic development.  Larry is also the author of, "Journey with Jesus: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius". Additionally Larry is an adjunct professor at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, teaches for the Institute for Spiritual Formation at Talbot Seminary and the Master's in Ministry program at Pt Loma Nazarene University.

11 Comments


  1. Thank you Larry for both of these clear and enjoyable visuals. Let go and have fun! Enjoy the love of Jesus! Yes!

  2. Larry, I love a child’s heart! If only we could have childlike faith and not let fear rob us of trusting God…Why do I fear? Why don’t I trust. Lord give me a childlike faith!!!

  3. I especially love the story about your daughter.
    With every major new thing or “change” in my life, it seems I go through that all over again. But it keeps getting easier and quicker.
    I do love you, my old friend.

  4. Larry, thanks for these great illustrations! They really speak to my heart, especially as I get ready to go on my retreat. Even in this, I find myself not fully feeling secure in God.

  5. Going on the retreat is a step of faith – a trusting of God. I hope you have a couple of days of “splashing” with Jesus.

  6. I wonder why we can’t trust that God is holding us and feel like we must uphold ourselves so often. We hold on for dear life even when we can feel the support and care of God. In regard to your 3 year old grandson, I understand their amazement and excitement after watching the same Thomas the Train episode 7-8 times this week with my 3 year old. It never gets old to him.

    • It never does get old but even more than that it seems to be entered into at some level as a new experience even after they have memorized it. As I enter into the Lenten season yet again I hope I can do so with a sense of the mystery and wonder that IS there.

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