Recognizing the Spiritual Child


No long discourse today, only a simple thought.

Watching my son’s soccer team play, I thought how easy it is for us to watch those five and six-year-olds knowing that they’re just kids. We lower our expectations as a result. Any sense of progress means the world to us.

My son’s ball handling’s come a long way. His defensive play is light-years better this spring than last fall. He scored two goals on Saturday, four over the course of eight games, because he’s got a better sense of the game and where the ball’s going. He’s broken through gaps and taken good shots that he would have ignored in the fall. Taking those baby steps...He’s greatly improved his play and I’m proud of him.

I realized walking off that field Saturday that we get such a glow out of our children when they make those baby steps of progress. Our expectations match their maturity level and seeing them do even one thing better means the world.

I also realized a greater truth.

We have low expectations for youngsters. We can look at someone and see that they are a child, then we adjust accordingly. How hard then to look at someone who appears to be an adult on the outside, yet is a child in the Faith. We don’t look hard enough for the spiritual child in them. We assume because they’re an adult on the outside that their faith matches that external appearance.

How much damage happens in the name of Christ because we make that assumption? We wouldn’t treat a five-year-old like a fifty-year-old in any other aspect of life, yet we all too readily will castigate the spiritual child for not being an adult.

I wish our spiritual eyes matched our physical ones. If we could see that a thirty-year-old Christian might only be a three-year-old in Christ, we’d act differently toward them, wouldn’t we? I hope we would, otherwise we would commit a sort of spiritual child abuse by asking of a spiritual child what he or she could not meet. Too often, we’d inflict punishment for a goal someone that young in the faith could not attain.

This week, think about the people you know who are Christians, especially the ones who are struggling in their faith. Many aren’t even to their spiritual teen years in maturity, yet we ask for adult responses from them, responses they have no reservoir of experience to pull from. Think about lowering your expectations and walking alongside them as a mentor or simply a more mature friend who cares.

Because children in the faith exist, and the best way for us to bring them to maturity is to recognize their inner spiritual child and help that child reach maturity in the proper fullness of time.

7 thoughts on “Recognizing the Spiritual Child

  1. You know, I’ve been recently noticing that I expect people in my congregation to be as passionate about the thing that I’m currently passionate about. That puts me at odds with others in leadership who are passionate about slightly different things. It creates a tension in the body that doesn’t belong there. And it completely leaves out the young believer who needs to simply learn to read his Bible, learn what worshiping means, learn to pray.

    An organically complete body takes care of all its members, with special attention paid to those who are not yet “presentable”.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. A very thoughtful post, which makes me wonder about a circumstance that’s germain: how to handle that adult babe in the Lord, who, very child like, wants to do things himself that he’s just not up to. I guess we can get in trouble at either end of the spectrum.

  3. I’ve seen the opposite side of this coin where those who fancy themselves gurus of the truth look down on the “novice” Christians and behave obnoxiously towards them.

    Personally I consider myself spiritually a teenager, someone who has grown a lot, but whose rebellious and mischievous side continues to land him in all kinds of trouble within Christian circles. Seems to fit me.

  4. Marta Odum

    I really appreciate this post! I’ve been saved less than a year. But the people on my job tend to treat me like I’m some kind of spiritual guru. The other day a girl asked me if she could talk to me about something, but she hoped I could give her advice that wasn’t in the form of a scripture. I was flattered that she assumed I have a scripture for every occasion. I wish I did, but I’m not quite there yet. There’s a brother in my church who’s been saved about a year, and people already call him Rev. I think that, when you first get saved your zeal is so incredibly high that the unsaved can mistake it for spiritual wisdom. My goal is to maintain a high level of zeal and add spiritual wisdom to it as I continue to grow in the Lord.

    God bless!

  5. francisco

    One thing I know. That whatever level of maturity we think or others think we have we are all to leave childessness behind and embrace childlikeness! And yes, let us soak ourselves in the gospel and never let it drop from our hands. For we never outgrow our need for the gospel and we are to preach it to ourselves till the day we drop.

  6. Sorry I’ve not been able to respond on this topic. Been putting out fires all day. Plus, though I made it all through winter without even a sniffle, I seem to be coming down with something. That or my allergies are just out of control.

  7. Hello Dan, Tony linked you from his site and I’m glad I followed. One of the things I find most pressing as a minister’s wife is trying to mediate between the siblings of spirituality. One who is stronger or more mature acts like the elder son when attention is shown the prodigals. Seems like no matter how much one grows in the Lord, we find ourselves pointing fingers and boasting of personal Spiritual growth that is of the Spirit’s teaching, conviction and guidance. We fail to recognize it is not of ourselves that we have matured in the faith…become teenagers or young adults –if you would.

    We sometimes think we’ve arrived only to have the Spirit come rushing in to break down our self-saturated pride. What a blessed reminder for us. Great thoughts. selahV

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