Growing Down

What would you say if I suggested we need to spend as much – if not more – time “unlearning”as we do learning? 

In a society that highly values the acquisition of knowledge and learning, that may sit uncomfortably! 

At the beginning of this year I was on our annual youth camp and we were in our Saturday night session with 65 youth. It had been a special night seeing the Holy Spirit minister to so many youth. The youngest girl on our camp, who was 10 years old, shared with her leader that she had a picture of encouragement from God she wanted to share with the group. When she got up to share, I could sense the excitement and anticipation that people had to hear the words this young girl had to share. What she shared was profound: “People’s hearts are on fire, but Satan has a bucket of water trying to put the fire out, but God is saying he had an endless supply of fire starters”. People roared with joy and celebration as she shared. What struck me was the boldness and simplicity of the way this girl shared. And it was in this moment I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Emma, you can learn from her”. 

As I pondered this thought driving home another thought came to mind. Ironically, in learning from this girl, it would actually involve a process of “unlearning”. 

As we grow older we start to learn or adopt habits that I believe are unhelpful or restricting to our faith. Things like control, fear, independence or superiority. And in fact, what becomes essential to our walk with Jesus is that we would “unlearn” these behaviours and return to a childlike faith. In Matthew 18:2-4 Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus calls us to adopt the faith and the position of a child. Childlike faith is absent of control, fear, superiority and independence – its vulnerability and humility before the Father. 

A child’s dependence on their parent is remarkable. They need the parent to care for them in all aspects of their life. That dependence starts to reduce as they get older. I believe Jesus is calling us to increase our dependence on him; to return to a dependence on the Father as a child would to a parent. To go to him for every need, every direction, to have no fear, and trust without hesitation in his leading. To seek to do only what the Father is doing. (John 5:19) 

An area for me to unlearn has been control. I like to be prepared, which isn’t always bad in itself but I need to be flexible and have room for God’s leading; to not have my feet so fixed on the ground that I won’t move where the Spirit leads. My need for control often reflects my lack of trust – or my desire to have faith in what is seen instead of trusting the unseen. Control means I miss out on faith-building opportunities because I am too concerned with the outcome I believe we should follow, instead of God’s. God has called me to give up control, to step more freely in the freedom He offers. As I give up control, I allow him to increase and me to decrease, demonstrating a wonderful childlike position before the Father.  

To give up control is inviting the Holy Spirit to lead me further into freedom and obedience. To ask the Holy Spirit to lead me further into the truth of being God’s child and how that impacts my life. Or as Charles Spurgeon puts it, “We have grown up, as we call it, so let us grow down today, and become as little children…”

What is it today you need to “unlearn”, in order to step more fully into the freedom that is offered in Christ Jesus, and to “grow down” so that our wonderful Jesus is exalted?