From the Podcast: Learning Friendship from Children
By Kent Bass
We just released a Striving Together podcast episode on friendship. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I hope you will soon. Pastor Shane and Pastor Manny had a helpful conversation about what it looks like to experience friendship, especially in the context of the church.
Of particular note to me was a small anecdote Shane shared about one of his children becoming new friends with another child. What struck me was the ease at which young children can (generally) develop friendships. Kids can walk into a room, start playing with complete strangers, and walk away confident the person they were playing with is a new pal–almost as if they had been friends from birth. Why does it seem so easy for them?
Children don’t bring cynical judgments into relationships
One of the barriers we face in developing friendships is our cynicism. We think, “That person wouldn’t want anything to do with me. And even if they did, they probably wouldn’t understand how to care for me.” Whether it’s our personality or past experience, we can view relationships with a “glass half empty” lens. Cynical assumptions don’t breed relational depth.
Children don’t bring fearful expectations into friendships
Shane mentioned fear being a barrier to relationships, and I wholeheartedly agree. Even though we can pride ourselves on being more reasonable and rational than children (monsters aren’t real) we allow our “mature” fears to dictate how we interact with others. “If I opened up and shared about who I am and how I feel, if they really knew me, they wouldn’t want to be my friend.” Fear tries to convince us we are sovereign, that we know for sure what will happen. Living as if our “what if?” fears are certainties will keep us from the kind of vulnerability that friendship requires and thrives on.
What can we learn from kids?
Cynicism and fear certainly aren’t the only barriers to friendship, but what I appreciate (and often learn) from my own children when they encounter problems is this: they are quick to come to me. Monsters under the bed might seem ridiculous to me, but their irrational fears lead them into my arms.
This is the kind of childlike faith that Tony preached on from Luke 18. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (vs16-17). The faith of a child is the recognition of need and the belief that God can provide. Childlike faith embraces dependence on the Father.
What obstacles keep you from experiencing friendship? As you face these obstacles, does your faith in God lead you toward him and others, or do you turn inward in disbelief? Let’s be a people who depend on God. In his wisdom, he has given us a family of faith to provide us with care and support. Let’s strive together to embrace the gift of friendship.
Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have four kids: Silas, Anna, Grace, and Asa. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.