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Innocent Love

Monday was technically my third Mother's Day...

...I was five weeks pregnant on my first, still trying to comprehend that I was about to become a mother. Rosa was four months old for my second and we spent the day just the two of us bonding. And yesterday we had a big family celebration with lots of laughter, food and love. Each in it's own way has been memorable and special and one of a kind - a reminder of the massive change in my life and the blessing that has been.

Becoming a mother has significantly changed my perspective on a number of things. I have a greater, and deeper understanding of the sacrifice Abraham made by obeying God's order to offer Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22). And God's decision to send his son Jesus to the cross - the willingness to let his son suffer and die for us (Romans 8:3) is so much more profound as I understand and experience the love a parent has for their child. Even more powerfully, I can understand God's love for us in a greater and deeper way - considering we are his children.

But while being a mother has not only taught me more about God's love, watching Rosa has shown me so much about how God wants us to be.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

For the disciples - as a matter of fact, for all of us - getting to heaven is the end goal, right? And so, it makes sense that they would ask Jesus how to achieve this goal. And while I don't have a biblical reference to support this, I expect the disciples were seeking a list of deeds that they needed to do - I'm imaging like the list of labours Hercules did in the Greek myths (reference to that, here). Instead, Jesus told them to become like little children. At first, I couldn't understand that. As an adult, I used to see children as "mini adults"; but as I have watched Rosa grow over the past 18 months, and as I have observed my friends and families children, I have discovered a whole new way of seeing and interacting in the world. And as such - connecting with God Our Father.

Children are innocent and unguarded

As an adult, how easy is it for you to openly trust and be vulnerable with someone? When you started dating your husband, wife or partner, did you immediately open up and tell them your life story or did it take time for you to show them all the parts of you? Did you fall immediately in love with them, or did it take time? What about your friends - did you immediate trust them, implicitly? Or your parents - is love something that is entirely natural, or do you need to work on it everyday?

While this might be a slightly challenging question, in my mind its normal. As adults we have had our hearts, our love, sadly used and abused. We have, mostly accidently, been betrayed and hurt by those we love - whether it is our parents, friends, partners, or even ex-partners. We have learnt that loving involves pain and that makes it sometimes harder to be open and vulnerable. So we protect ourselves. We take time to open up and be vulnerable.

Children, especially young children, haven't learnt that yet. They love completely unconditionally. You can see it in their behaviour - how they run to you (or strangers in the case of my daughter) for hugs, they smile these big open smiles, laugh, and when you stare into their eyes it can seem like their heart is pouring out of them. There is no fear or caution involved - they just love.

Children seek comfort when distressed

And because they can love unconditionally, they can trust us to comfort them when distressed. We know children are not born with the ability to regulate their emotions; they need their parents to help them understand, name and develop the skills to manage their emotions. Unlike most animals born in the wild, a new-born literally cannot survive without a caregiver to feed, change and protect them. So they learn to seek this caregiver for safety and comfort. Research has shown the psychological impact of children not receiving this emotional comfort (see here for some information - warning it is quite distressing to read) and it is devastating - in psychological circles we call this "attachment theory" and it is the foundation of the treatment style I work with. We are the heroes protecting them from the big bad world and, therefore teaching them how to see, understand and cope within this world.

Children want to have fun and spend time with you.

On the other hand, while we are a source of comfort and safety for children we are also their favourite plaything. Rosa has recently developed the habit of walking up to me, grabbing my hand and bringing me to sit next to her while she plays with her toys. While it's partially about safety - "as long as mummy isn't scared, I'm safe" her mind thinks - it's also about her desire for me to spend time with her. She is actively seeking a relationship with me and wants me to "delight in her" (again a concept from psychology - see HERE). And it's not just Rosa - I see it in all the children around me; smiling and laughing when they are playing with mum and dad, sharing toys and constant stories about their life, day and what they can see. They want to be close to us.

We are God's children

So, if this is how children are with us , then I imagine that this is how God wants us to relate to him. God is our father - our primary caregiver (1 Corinthians 8:6). He loves us the same way we love our children and wants us to relate to him in the same way.

Much like our children openly love and trust us, he wants us to be open and vulnerable with him (Psalms 139:23 - 24). He loves us unconditionally (Isaiah 54:10), and as such we can love him the same way. He has a plan and purpose for us (Jeremiah 29:11). Similarly, he is there in times of discomfort and pain and we can turn to him (Psalm 34:18). Lastly, we can have fun and celebrate with him. He wants a relationship with us (REF); for us to talk to him and share our lives (Revelations 3:20). We can trust him because he is the perfect caregiver.

So, this week think I want you to think about the children in your lives. Watch how they interact with their parents, friends and family. Take time to notice the innocence and openness they display. And consider how you can use what you have seen to connect more closely with God. And as always, if you find this to be a struggle then seek out community, and seek out help. Talk to your life group leader, to Rob or even seek professional help.

As always, God bless and have a wonderful week.

- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.


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