February 15, 2023
Sometimes it helps us to relate more intimately with God if we remember to approach Him the way a child would approach Him. David and Karen Mains discuss how to put this king of a spiritual discipline into practice.
A spiritual practice adult Christians might do well to remember is to sometimes approach God the way a child would.
David: There’s a smart person in the weekly prayer group I’m a part of who regularly says something like this when talking to God. You have told us Lord to come to you like little children. That’s going to be how I’m talking to you. And then she proceeds, and I believe is quite natural for her. It’s not natural for me. Not yet anyway, but I like what she does.
Karen: Yeah, I think that we can teach old dogs new tricks. What do you think about that?
David: I’m not sure I would have put it that way.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go Podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: I will tell you what I am doing, but first of all, I have to get you to tell a story from our kids.
David: Strong-willed children.
Karen: Oh yes, we had one of those. First child, a son. Remember Jim Dobson, the famous psychologist who was huge at the time that we were raising our kids. He wrote a book called The Strong-Willed Child and he said, strong-willed children come out of the womb, shaking their fists and smoking a cigar. Boy did he nail it.
David: Well, anyway, I want you to tell the story. Which is kind of folklore in our family of him when he was little. Not Jim Dobson, but our strong-willed child.
Karen: Randall Mains our oldest. So, he was a very strong-willed child. In fact, there was one time in his parenting when I said, “I have never parented before and I’ve never parented anyone like you. What would you do”? And as I’ve said before, and then he would give me these instructions. So I was going to him for cues as far as how his mind was operating and what he would respond to as far as disciplining was concerned.
David: This was after one of those days when it had been a real battle of wills.
David: In the following morning, he got up and what was he suggesting?
Karen: Well, I wake up with this little face pressed up against mine, almost nose to nose. He said, “Mom, let’s be friends today.” which has become a line in our family. Let’s be friends today.
David: And it’s the line I used in my own spiritual walk recently, trying to become more childlike. I have been spending more time in prayer, good amounts of time in prayer, and that includes confession, letting the Lord examine my life and then saying, yeah, I think that’s true. I could do better there. I actually stepped over the line. That was sin. I’m sorry Lord. And I don’t like those prayers, which is finally bringing me to the point. The other morning, I said, “God, let’s just be friends this morning.” Let’s be friends today, like Randall said. And it was very free. While I was going through my day, I came back to that again. We’re being friends today. And I found that to be a very beautiful experience for me.
Karen: I think that’s an extraordinarily profound position to take. In fact, we have a lot that Jesus references children in the New Testament when the disciples bring this little crowd of children and they want to see Jesus. I want to see Jesus. I want to see that sort of stuff. And they were trying to remove the children out of the way, mob them up and remove them so they wouldn’t bother Christ. And Jesus steps into that right away and says, no, let the little children come unto me. And then he does kind of a rebuke. He says, how such like these is the kingdom of God. I think that there is a quality of childlikeness that we all need to attain in our spiritual journey. So good for you, David. What’s happening when you’re saying, let’s be friends today to God?
David: I’m hesitating to speak because I feel very self-conscious about some of what’s going on in my life. I have prayer times at my desk. That’s when I do it best and when I have a pencil and paper and I’m writing. But I also have prayer times when I’m in the car. Pretty much every day except Sunday, I will drive to the post office, which is a 10, 12-minute drive. And I use that to pray much more spontaneously. And this was my, let’s be friends today, God. Prayer and I got thinking of other ways I could be more childish.
I don’t often sing in the car. I try it in my memory to go back. two songs that I was taught as a child. I was amazed that the words came back to me. I haven’t sung these for I don’t know how long. Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Remember those words?
Karen: Oh yeah, he was saying it all the time.
David: I sang it not at the top of my lungs.
Karen: I’m weak but he is strong.
David: There you got it.
Karen: What’s the last line?
David: Don’t hold me to it right now. I’ll go to another one that came to me, and this is a profound song. Jesus loves the little children all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. Jesus loves the little children of the world.
I remember singing Zacchaeus was a wee little man. A wee little man was he. He climbed up a sycamore tree for he wanted his Lord to see. So, this is funny. The one that I remembered, and I had to work on a little while before I got all the words back was, I may never fight in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot in the artillery. I may never fly or the enemy but I’m in the Lord’s army. I just think about all those people who taught me songs and how I just accepted them and that was fine and some of them were profound.
Karen: Right. I think that this is an essential spiritual growth reality that we need to come to God as his children. We say our Father who is in heaven and those concepts get repeated but sometimes the reality of the impact doesn’t reach us. So, remember after my mother died at age 69. And then three years later my mom and I was 39 years of age and all of that lineage that I had known as a little girl, the grandparents and great-aunts and uncles, those were gone and I was the only one left in line like that the oldest one left in line and that feeling was overwhelming and I remember thinking oh I’m an orphan and there was this feeling of orphanness. I mean they died suddenly and unexpectedly. So, you left post and lost but then who are you? Without that generation and they had been there for you and before you. So, I remember standing in a walk-in closet and a bedroom and I was getting dressed and feeling this weight of being an old orphan pressing down on me. And it was a season of change so I pulled out a jacket was probably in the fall I hit more in all summer and put my hand in the pocket and here was a lot of bills I’d forgotten maybe $10 something like that but it was there when I needed to be reminded that I was not an orphan as far as family father was concerned I wasn’t a psychological orphan I wasn’t a physical or emotional or orphan and he was perfectly capable of taking care of me and taking care of all my needs. Well, that was a huge reality and I think one of the things we need to say through the podcast and that you’re sort of working with and experimenting with some is we need to go to him and press our nose up against his and say let’s be friends today God. Teach me what it is to be your child and to be absolutely dependent upon you but to receive the love of the father, not only one who loves me, one who’s greeted me set my genes into motion. So that’s a profound reality. It’s very scriptural and I think that there are many, many times when responsible adults, proficient adults; adults who are used to making their life work feel like they can’t do it anymore. And that’s exactly the time when we need to have developed the practice of saying I’m a child of the Heavenly Father and we need to then swing into that reality so it’s not just an idea but it’s an emotional reality in our own lives. We feel it. We feel that we’re not orphans, that he is there for us going to take care of us mean loves us.
David: Let me put it into a sentence. This is my attempt anyway. A spiritual practice adult Christians might do well to remember is to sometimes approach God the way a child would. Shall I say it again? A spiritual practice adult Christians might do well to remember is to sometimes approach God the way a child would. So, I’m working on it I’ll give another illustration. I’m thinking of Bible verses I was taught when I was little and how those stuck with me and how that’s such a rich inheritance that I have. Some people come to the Lord later in life and they don’t have that privilege to bank upon like I do. I was in a situation where I was raised learning to memorize verses of the Bible.
I think that the one that comes back to me more than any other, again it’s a child’s story, but my older brother and I apparently didn’t get along all that well, at least in the way my parents thought we should. So, they had us memorize a verse and that verse was way back in Genesis. It’s let there be no strife between me and the farwee be brother. I looked it up as Genesis 13.8 in my NIV it says, so Abraham said the lot let’s not have any quarreling between you and me or between your herdsmen and mine for we are brothers. Well, mine was in the King James, but they actually had Max and I can’t remember his last name, but he was a good artist and he did a little sign that said, you know, let there be no strife between me and the I think it was always a little crooked. That was just one of really many, many verses that I memorized. And what a wonderful thing that was that even as a child, I could be taught that way.
Karen: Yeah, you know, one of the childlike qualities that we see in children is that they’re free to be angry and have temper tantrums. When they can’t get their way, then we got a little storm cloud that we have to manage. And I think that we need to be understanding it’s okay to have temper tantrums with God. I mean, like my mother used to say to me, you know, he knows how you’re feeling. You don’t have to tell him how you’re feeling, but you need to get it out and he understands that you need to get it out. You need to clear the air.
You need to say all the human things we feel about God. You’re not paying any attention to me. I’m tired of being treated like this. I prayed this prayer over and over and over again. You remember all those things.
David: What was the story of the nun whose wagon was stuck? I can’t even remember all that.
Karen: One of the chorises, she was traveling on a road in a wagon, and she was stuck in the mud. They couldn’t get the wagon out and the horses couldn’t pull it out and she looked looks up to the heavens and says, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many or something similar to that. But that’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about is the freedom to be secure enough in God’s love that we know that He allows us to be human and sometimes childish as well as childlike. And then we go back, and we do the things with Him that we would do with one another. I blew it yesterday, I lost my temper, I was tired and cranky, and He puts His arm around us and says, I understand now, how can we work to make this better?
And I am taking care of you, just wait and see, I’m pulling things together, you know, the whole environment here, they have to be managed in order for me to answer your prayer, or I’ll answer it at the time, when is best for you that you don’t know about?
David: Or maybe even a time when you’ve cooled down a bit.
Karen: Yeah, well, yeah, one time when you’ve cooled down, just out to it, you know. And then I think there are times He sort of does send us to our rooms, you know. Ha ha ha ha ha.
David: Well, now we’re back into my confessional area.
Karen: Go ahead and take care of this and then let’s talk, you know. Get it out of your system, bang the door shut.
David: I like what’s being said and I think sometimes Karen, that delight is missing when the faith becomes too legalistic.
Karen: Or too theological.
David: Yeah, too theological, that’s a fair statement. Do you remember the comment that Angela, our daughter in law, made the other day, she was looking at the Kingdom Tale site.
Karen: On Amazon, the sale site, and she started to read the reviews, which are wonderful, they’re most of them five stars.
David: There are reviews of Tales of the Kingdom.
Karen: Those are the books, imagined to books that we wrote that have been in the market for 45 years, which is just amazing. Well, she had gone through the reviews and despite the fact that they were all glowing, there was one mom who had written reviews and questioned some of the imaginative takeoff that we had taken describing the king, who is the Christ figure in the book. And one of the things I have him doing is he’s playing with the children, and he stands on his hands and walks on his hands. Well, that offended her theology.
David: That offended this one person who was reviewing the books.
Karen: She was reviewing books.
David: Basically said, that’s not really biblical. Jesus didn’t do that.
Karen: Jesus never did that. And her concept of Jesus, the best I could catch, is that she understands he’s both God and man. And in her theology, God wouldn’t stand on his hands. Our daughter-in-law was quite offended by it.
David: Offended by the review.
Karen: By the review. Not so much that she was critiquing the book, but the theological position that this mom was coming for. So, our daughter-in-law is raising three beautiful children by herself because they’re Sunday. But she understands that when you write imaginative literature, in order to get your story across, it’s a mix between the theology of Scripture when you’re doing it this way and the imagination. And there’s freedom for that. God has given us that imagination to use in creative sorts of ways. Then she described how she was raising her own children, which I think is just wonderful. She said, “I don’t really tell them what I believe. I just keep asking questions of them as far as what they believe.” So, this is like a Socratic methodology she’s working out because of her background in education. So, the children have to articulate and then understand and dialogue with mom as far as where their belief system is. And her closing lines about this review from this woman. And it wasn’t a terrible review, but she just was nitpicking it. Because I pity that woman’s children. Well, in a way, we need to. If our theology becomes so restrictive, we can’t allow our minds to be open up to the possibilities. What I love to think about Christ is this group of young men walking all over that Middle Eastern part of the road, kicking up dust on the roadway and laughing and hollering with one another and having earnest intellectual discussions. Everything you see young men who are compatriots do today. Well, that’s not really delineated in Scripture. It’s something I impose on it to make those scriptures real to my understanding. But all kinds of theologians do the same thing.
So, to pastors, they propose things about certain scriptures that are not innately in the scriptures.
David: They bring them to life.
Karen: Bring them to life. Bring them to life for the listeners or for yourself. One of those things we’re saying in this podcast is to go back into the childlike aspects of your life and relate now for a while with God as a young child or a younger child or a teen and see what happens in your relationship with Him.
David: Yeah, I’m not sure what my friend in the prayer group would think of our conversation. She’s still much better at it than I am.
David: But I am learning now in an adult way. I’m going to go back to that sentence, which kind of encapsulates what we’re talking about. And I’m hoping encourages people to be a little more childlike in their spiritual walk than they would normally be.
Karen: To be free to be that way.
David: So, I’ll put it into the language that everyone can understand and then let people work the freedom parts out on their own. Okay. A spiritual practice. That’s sounding pretty adult, doesn’t it? A spiritual practice adult Christians might do well to remember is to sometimes approach God the way a child would. A spiritual practice adult Christians might do well to remember is to sometimes approach God the way a child would. I’m working on it.
Karen: Yeah, you are.
David: Are you going to work on it?
Karen: Yeah, I have in the past, but I need to be reminded to do it now in the present. So, thank you. Thank you very much.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s all lower-case letters: email@example.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2023 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
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