I’m like a little child who doesn’t know the way

I have to be creative when I work. It’s in my job description. Part of being a writer (some people would call it being an artist) is making stuff up. You have to be really good at creating imaginary scenarios with imaginary people, which is all just in your head but real enough that others would believe it’s true if you told them.

The downside at being really good at making stuff up is that sometimes people think you really know what you’re doing. And to a certain extent, it’s true. You use experiences you’ve learned from other people and other situations, and you apply it to your current circumstance. It’s not rocket science. But what happens when you run into a situation that you can’t fabricate an answer for? What happens when you barrel headlong into something you don’t know how to get out of? What happens when you’re so buried in life’s troubles that you can’t even pretend you know what to do anymore?

It can be nice to be the person in the room with the answers, sure. But there’s a certain amount of freedom in being able to admit that you haven’t got a clue.

C52A64EA10_1505x1004Today’s verses are 1 Kings 3:7-9.

Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?

Solomon, the son of David, is one of the best-known kings of Israel. Israel experienced an unprecedented time of wealth and prosperity during Solomon’s reign. But that didn’t happen because Solomon was a great businessman. No, early on in his kingship, Solomon and God had a chat, and God gave Solomon the choice between material possessions and wisdom. And this was Solomon’s response.

We lose something from the original language. There’s always something lost in translation. That phrase, “I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around” is what I want to key into this morning.

This was Solomon. The King of Israel. The Son of David. He was rich and powerful and successful, yet in speaking to God, Solomon had no problem admitting he didn’t know jack. That’s what that means, you understand. Solomon was calling himself a baby. In some translations, it says Solomon compared himself to an infant that didn’t even know how to enter a room.

Compared to God, Solomon knew he knew nothing. And by demonstrating this kind of humility, God blessed him immeasurably.

When life get tough and surrounds me with trouble, my first response is to shake it off. I don’t want people worrying about me or fussing over me. I usually just want to be left alone so that I can puzzle through the situation on my own. I’ve heard enough stories, I know enough Scripture, and I’ve had enough wise council in my life to get me through just about anything–or so I thought.

God likes to keep me humble. So He’ll let things come at me that I have no idea how to handle. And I flail around ridiculously for a while until I finally break down and ask for help, like I should have done first. But I don’t like admitting I have no answers. I don’t like being the person who stares blankly at a hurting friend’s face and has nothing helpful to say. I may not like it, but it’s the truth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t always know what to say.

You’d think that by now, after all these years following the Lord, I wouldn’t need Him as much. You’d think I could stand on my own by now. But that’s not the case. I need Him more now than I did as a child, because I’ve come to understand just how big the world is and just how little I really know about any of it.

Are you feeling lost today, trapped in a situation you can’t find answers for? Are you flailing around trying to fix an impossible circumstance, doing the best you can with what you have and utterly failing? Have you hurt someone else? Have you screwed up big time? Join the club.

Just know you aren’t supposed to have all the answers. That’s God’s job. Your job is to ask God for help, to listen to His answers, and put them into practice.

You don’t have to know everything. Isn’t that a relief? Isn’t that a weight off your shoulders? You simply can’t have the answers to all of life’s problems. It’s too big for you. But it’s not too big for God, and if you believe in Jesus, you have free access to God’s ear, to God’s wisdom, and to God’s strength.

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Go with the bubblegum

I went to the dentist yesterday. I understand needing to go, especially on a regular basis, but going to the dentist is never fun. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t handle scraping well. Any kind of scraping. I shudder even when I scratch someone’s back because the vibrations of fabric on my fingernails send shivers up my spine, so having a dental hygienist scraping around on my teeth with a sharpened spike is torture.

But it’s a necessary discomfort. And I am blessed to have insurance that provides for two dental checkups a year. But something really excellent happened this time–and it wasn’t that I didn’t have cavities.

The dentist had different flavored polishes!

For years and years, all you could have was mint if you were a grownup. Mint. Mint. But not even good mint. Mint that tasted like it’d been rolled in sand and left in the sun too long. Bleck. Only kids got a choice of flavors. But now? Now you can choose cherry and strawberry and raspberry and a host of other flavors–including bubblegum.

Bubblegum! A dentist hadn’t used a bubblegum-flavored polish on my teeth since I was a little girl. But as excited as I got about that, I thought that maybe I should choose cherry. Or maybe I shouldn’t even be excited. Maybe I should just go with mint. Isn’t that what a real grownup would do?

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 18:16-17.

Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

Where do adults get the idea that we have to act so grown up all the time? I think part of the reason some people love kids so much is that they don’t hold their emotions back. When they’re excited, you know they’re excited. When they’re sad, you know they’re sad. With a grownup, it’s hard to tell because grownups have had years and years of practice in hiding what they really feel and think.

Why? Because it’s childish to get emotional over things. At least, that’s what we’re told.

Children are real. They’re open and honest and genuine. Sure, there are some corkers who figured out how to lie and manipulate at an early age, but that’s learned behavior. Most kids I know are genuinely honest little people. They’ll tell me exactly what they think.

I miss that as an adult, especially in the big bad grownup world of politics and corporate careers. And I don’t understand why we have to give up that openness and honesty as adults. I don’t see why we have to lose the innocence and the excitement of childhood just because we’ve had some of our dreams come crashing down.

I think that’s why adults lose the joy of childhood. Children are idealistic. They dream and play and imagine, and then they grow up and realize that the world is broken and their parents don’t have all the answers and their teachers don’t know everything and they won’t always be rewarded for doing the right thing. How else do you react when you realize those things? It’s a lot easier to stop believing, to stop imagining, to stop dreaming, especially when it seems less and less likely that your dreams will come true.

Well, here’s something awesome. If you’re a Christ-follower, you never have to stop dreaming. Just because you have a dream and it doesn’t come true right now, you don’t have to give up dreaming altogether. That’s one thing amazing about God. He wants to fulfill our dreams, but they have to come true according to His plan and His design. We just have to be patient.

So don’t be ashamed of childlike faith. Don’t be afraid of childlike excitement, especially when God is doing something amazing. People may look at you funny. People may think you’re nuts. Don’t worry about it. Deep down inside they’re just wishing they knew God well enough to find the same kind of joy you have. And if you get the opportunity, don’t hesitate to share it with them.

And the next time you’re at the dentist and you get the opportunity to have bubblegum-flavored tooth polish, do it. I did. And it made my day.