You know those Timehop or Memories additions to Facebook? The ones that bring up posts that you typed a year ago or more? Sometimes I love those, but most times I feel a twinge of annoyance with my younger self who chose to post useless and sometimes childish things right there on her own Facebook wall for the entire world to see. There have been a few posts about jobs that I had and coworkers and a handful of posts that were laced with frustrations at every day life. They were not beautifully or thoughtfully written. They were more or less slapped up there on that wall without the slightest thought that maybe my words could have used more Grace. And I often sit here and wonder how that person all those years ago could be me? And I think about how much more Grace I even need today and wonder if I’ve actually come a long way or not? I can sit here and say that I’m glad I am no longer who I was then. But if I’m being honest, ten years from now I will probably look back at my posts from today and be glad not to be who I am now.
The realization in all of this is that years ago I would have defended the words I put up there for the world to see. I would have defended and honestly believed that I was in a good place. I felt secure with who I was and the truth is that my current self would probably do the same thing for the thoughts and words I put out there in more recent years. But I am entirely different from who I was then. And I will be entirely different in the future. So how can I possibly reconcile the two?
My spiritual life, and probably yours too, follows this same trajectory. I have called myself a Christian my whole life, but what that means and how closely I walk with Jesus has changed quite a few times. When I was a child I learned all the Bible stories, I memorized all the verses, I sat through all the Sunday school lessons. I proclaimed to have loved Jesus. And I believed. But loving Jesus today looks a lot different than loving Jesus then. Why? Because more of life has come my way. I have experienced more pain. I have experienced more healing. I have seen those who suffer. I have been exposed to the world as it really is, and not just my own world as it really was. And so my thoughts have changed and so have my words. A natural part of growing up.
1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Many times we allow our past to keep a strong hold on our present and sometimes even on our future. We tell ourselves that we aren’t qualified enough for Jesus because we have a track record of messing up or we have a family history of not knowing or studying Jesus enough. We forget that many times we are called children of God in scripture. This title as a child of God allows for so much Grace.
We don’t hold against a child what they said and how they behaved when they were young. And we almost expect a child to act out when they reach the teenage years. We say it’s because they don’t know better yet. We say that one day they will come around, we continue to teach them and try to show them the right way.
Isn’t this what Jesus was doing when He sat with sinners and tax collectors around the table? Isn’t this what Jesus was doing when He did not accuse the woman caught in adultery? And is this not what He does for us each and every day, as we continue to make mistakes and too often misunderstand His heart for the world? He kept on loving those sinners. He kept on extending Grace. He kept speaking with them and showing them the love of the Father. Just as we would do for our own children.
Isn’t it very possible that this earthly life mirrors our spiritual childhood? Some of us were raised knowing Jesus. And others were raised not knowing Him at all. Some of us got what maybe we could call a head start, a spiritual preschool if you will, in our private Christian schools and our Christian homes. And others are just learning to love Jesus in their adulthood.
Jesus can call to you at any age in life. He can reach in and change your heart at any life stage. This knowledge can, and maybe should, change drastically how we extend Grace to others in our lives and in our world. Maybe judgment stems from not understanding that faith in Jesus makes us a child of God, and that being a spiritual child may require all the Grace that we were afforded in our earthly childhood.
It does not mean that we take on a condescending attitude towards those who know little or care less about Jesus than we do at our current stage in life. What it means is that we can better identify with those who are just starting to know Jesus or don’t know Him at all because we have been there. And if we are being honest, no matter what stage in physical or spiritual life we are in, we still do not know everything there is to know about Jesus. We still have more growing to do. We still need the Grace of childhood.
Maybe this is how we find humility. Maybe this is why Christ came as a baby. He came to be like us, to live with us, to see us as we are. And to be like us meant to start so incredibly small. It meant to start as a child.
If your past is holding you back from your future, maybe it would help to know that God is currently the Father of many imperfect children. Many of His children have dirtied pasts. Many of His children are still infants in their faith and in their knowledge of Him. But all of His children are assured of a future in His Grace.
And if you are feeling secure in your faith, if you have lost the realization that we do not yet know all there is to know about God, if you have stopped growing, then I encourage you to remember that we are still called children. There is much growing left to do, and there is much Grace to help us to do it. There is Grace for your past, your present, and your future.
Shame and embarrassment are words that do not flow from the Grace giving blood of Jesus. Instead, forgiveness, mercy, and grace flow from the Father’s lips to His children. These words help us to grow and yet they also humble us. And while that may sound difficult, Grace and Growth are both entirely necessary when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, who came to be small to us who were already small. He did this that He might mend and grow our relationship with the Father who knows more, and is more, and gives more, than we ever could. Maybe one day, when Jesus has made all things new again, we will know more than we know now. But today we can claim our childhood. Today we can claim that we are children of the King of Kings, and our childhood like most childhoods may appear messy, but we are growing up into something more glorious than our earthly selves could ever imagine.
1 Corinthians 13:9-12 “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”