Simultaneous Child-Like Faith and Adult Faith
My favorite author, G.K. Chesterton was a major fan of the paradox. He surmised that our entire faith is based on contradictions that may not make sense to our earthly sensibilities and are only logical with faith and knowledge of how God understands us. I’m not a literary scholar, but I thought this was a great article on G.K. Chesterton, the Prince of Paradox.
In any case, I’ve been praying and thinking about the paradox of possessing child like faith, but the need for that faith to blossom into an adult faith that should flourish and grow. Scripture mentions both. Matthew 18:2–3 says,
Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
And then last week at Mass, we heard:
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Essentially, the only difference between child like faith and adult faith is that adult faith is child like faith with more information. It’s kind of scary because the more we read, the more we pray and the more we love, the greater responsibility we have to God. We become adults of faith (eeeesh, still feel too young to consider myself an adult), which is a huge undertaking and one not to be taken lightly.
This all may seem very pie in the sky to some, so I’ll offer a more concrete example. One summer, in college, I took it upon myself to read John Paul II’s, Love and Responsibility. The book is daunting, but one that is amazingly rewarding and fulfilling. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that the book changed my life and made me realize of the massive, compelling task of living the Christian vocation. The more I read, the more I realized that there was a reason God was blessing me with this information. He was urging me to use the information to serve Him and to love His children with all my heart. These seem like simple prospects, but John Paul II somehow presents them in an earth shattering way that makes you realize: nothing else matters. Each page I turned was more information on how God wanted me to love radically. About halfway through the book, I put it down and thought: There’s just no way I’m capable of this. God couldn’t possibly expect love of this magnitude from someone so small and sinful.
I stopped reading for awhile and confided in my dear friend Chris Bernabe (who’s now a seminarian and will soon, God willing, be ordained a deacon. Please pray for him!!) that I just didn’t see the point in reading further since God had already given me more responsibility that I could possibly handle. He laughed and pointed out that acquiring that degree of knowledge and fully comprehending the task at hand takes courage and is not for the faint of heart. He assured me that it’s a war to be waged with the Devil and information and faith are armor to protect us, not swords to defeat us. The more you read and learn and pray, the more you come to see God for who He really is and that is an awe inspiring process that should never end.
Chris was right! The inspiration, light and joy that comes from more fully understanding the Church, the Saints and the philosophy behind our beautiful faith is enough to make it seem like God really has everything under control and the devil is a petty, small, shrewish figure.
Finally, I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes from Love and Responsibility that really hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, it was difficult to narrow it down to just a few, so read it yourself!!
Virtue can only come from spiritual strength (pg. 197)
Moderation is not mediocrity but the ability to maintain one’s equilibrium amid the stirrings of concupiscence. This equilibrium must provide the inner gauge for one’s feelings, sensual and emotional, for one’s actions, and up to a point for one’s state of mind. Virtue depends very closely on and is in a sense a function of this sort of moderation…The essential nature of moderation is unambiguous: whoever has not attained it, whoever is not self-controlled and moderate is not chaste. (pg. 196)
Love itself is oriented towards objective values, first among them the value of the person, which both partners in love affirm, and the union of persons to which love leads (pg. 155)
The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is. (pg. 131)