At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.Matthew 18:1–5 (NIV)
Recently I conducted an exit interview with a young worker who is leaving our mission agency. She shared the highlights of her short career. “Early on, I dove into student ministry through Bible study and hosting internationals. I loved that time of ministry because I knew enough to do something but didn’t know enough to know better.”
Oh, to be young and dumb, I thought as I listened to her story. Days later, a friend sent me her thoughts on Mary’s story that challenged my bias. Maybe my young colleague was actually exhibiting faith—the faith of a child.
I wonder if God in his infinite wisdom used a naive child because she would be more open to Him. I also thought of the phrase “the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know.”—Jayme
Mary was between 13 and 16 years of age when the angel visited her (according to most scholars) because that’s the age girls got married in those days. But I wonder if my friend isn’t onto something? I wonder if God chose a young girl because she also had child-like faith?
Simply put, young people do stuff that they refuse to do later in life. They stand in their innocence at the altar and say “I do,” and they don’t realize what “they don’t.” The world looks bright and hopeful and they’re sure that nothing can go wrong. And so they jump in. Blindly, naively, but with faith.
I have participated in several assessments and workshops that describe my personality and tell me how I respond to challenges. When a new idea is presented, I will tell you all the reasons why it won’t work, or what the obstacles will be along the way, or what actually needs to be in place in order for it to succeed. I am that gal!
And we all know the guy that consistently pipes up with a negative story about someone he knows who had such and such happen to him in this same case so of course it will all turn out badly. Some of this mindset stems from personality, but a lot comes with age and experience. How else do we know that it might not work?
But a young person doesn’t have that frame of reference. They see the future with hope and excitement and possibility. They understand less but are amazed by more.* There is something about the innocence and faith of a child that just believes anything can happen, that causes them to jump in and take risks. Mary was that gal! She heard the angel’s commission and she invited it. Bring it on! Let’s do this!
I am so glad that Mary didn’t know better. The next time I face a challenge from the Lord, may I forget my list of potential pitfalls and focus instead on God’s unlimited power.
REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
What list of reasons have you come up with why something that God is asking you to do won’t work?
How could exercising child-like faith change your perspective?
Lord Jesus, I want to take you at your word without question like a child would do. I want to simply believe what you say. I want the unbridled joy and delight of a child when they receive a gift. Thank you for asking a young girl to bear your son. Thank you for her child-like faith. Give me the same child-like faith that simply trusts you.
Hebrews 11 (especially verses:1–3, 6, 39–40)
*This sentence is not original to me but I can’t remember where I heard it.
Next: Devotional Reading
For more of Mary’s story, read “Favored, Blessed, Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth” available on Amazon.