Learning Childlike Faith
By |   February 8, 2012 |   in Family Life

One Saturday when my daughter Mara was six I was being a “good dad,” watching TV with her. At one point, an Ad Council public service announcement came on. It talked about the dangers of cigarette smoking and how it had been found to cause cancer.

I was a smoker at the time, and I happened to have a cigarette lit when the announcement came on. Mara turned to me and asked: “Is that right, Dad? Is cigarette smoking bad for you?” “Yes,” I admitted. Next, Mara asked: “Then why are you smoking?”

I had actually tried to quit several times, but this was a moment I couldn’t escape. I realized Mara would grow up knowing that Dad believed one thing and did another. She would see a deep division in how “mature” people live. The thought of her realizing I lacked the self control I hoped for her and others in the family was too much.

I turned the TV off and asked her right then to pray for me. She did, and that impetus was enough to enable me to quit smoking for good.

The sixth century abbot, Dorotheos of Gaza, wrote: “If a man really sets his heart upon the will of God, [God] will enlighten a little child to tell that man what is His will. But if a man does not truly desire the will of God, even if he goes in search of a prophet, God will put into the heart of the prophet a reply like the deception of his own heart.”

Children have a simplicity and straightforwardness that can be transformative for adults. To be around children is often an opportunity to desire the will of God and to face the truth about ourselves. I quit smoking for the sake of my little daughter. She was—and still is at age 40—an example to me of someone who excels in childlike faith.

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Don Simpson:
Don Simpson is a certified spiritual director in Colorado Springs and is senior editor at NavPress. He is coauthor with Dallas Willard of Revolution of Character (NavPress, 2005). He also participated in launching Discipleship Journal and The Small Group Letter, and was cofounder of Helmers & Howard, Publishers.
    • Hello from snowy Budapest Hungary. I live here with my wife and three almost grown daughters. This Christmas we gathered with a few other families from the US for a not so traditional Christmas dinner, a Mexican feast! While there I met a couple and their 2 year old son Ian. Something Ian did touched me and spoke powerfully to me.

      I had never met this couple or their child before. All in all we were over 25 in the house and a number of those there had spent significant time with this little boy. Though it was Christmas somehow my heart was distracted and I could not shake that deep haunting feeling of distance and coldness in my relationship with God.

      During the evening something amazing happened. Ian, who is only 2 years old, set his trucks and toys aside and came straight to me and held out his arms. I picked him up and he hugged my neck and wouldn’t let me go. He stayed in my lap for a long time and had to be pried away later in the evening so that he and his parents could go home. As his little arms were clinging to my neck, I was overwhelmed with the sense that Jesus was there, in this little boy, letting me know again that He loves me so deeply and passionately. Even though I felt distant and that somehow I was disappointing Him, through Ian He was giving me the hug and the reminder of how He truly loves without limit or condition.

      There have been many times over the years when God has spoken to me and opened my eyes through my daughters and through other children. This Christmas, I received and unexpected, unsolicited, but deeply deeply needed gift, Jesus’s embrace for me through the arms of Ian.

      • Laurie Ross

        David, that was powerfully moving. A hug from a toddler is one of the best things on earth. Thanks for sharing your story.