Falling and Learning

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:7-12

In the previous study we began looking at the well-known section of the Sermon that begins with the words, ‘Ask and it shall be given.’ We saw that it is important to take these words in context, which results in the promise being less of a blanket statement than expected. It is more about good parenting than about being a promise to give whatever you ask for.

Personally I am very thankful that we have the best parent possible: our heavenly Father. He has the wisdom that we lack. Like any parent, he will also let us have our wants as well as our needs sometimes – and He is very generous!

But in my life experience I have also seen that sometimes we are given our wants to be taught that, in the reality of life, our imagination and reality are two very different things. Sometimes our wants turn out very definitely to be something that we do not want at all! Our Father knows that, sometimes, the only way for us to learn something is to experience something in the reality of life – even if the experience can be a little painful or scary. He remains the Father and his hands are stretched out to catch us should we fall, or to hold us close and comfort us should our emotions be affected. It is always good to feel His love!

In the previous study I was trying to explain what is meant by the asking part when taking the verse in context. Let me just say here that I am not trying to limit God. That would be impossible for me to do anyway! Yes, God can and sometimes does give absolutely beyond your craziest and most beautiful dreams. The thing I am opposed to is this: the treating of the Bible as though it was a grimoire. It is NOT a witches book of spells or a sorcerer’s handbook. You can’t use scripture to twist the arm of God behind his back. No verse of scripture is a magic formula or spell.

What a Father wants with his children is a good relationship. If you were to spend time in any family home and you noticed that the children never spoke with the parents or the parents with the children, this would seem strange. Similarly, if the children seemed to be the ones in charge of the home, helping themselves to everything and even inspecting the pockets of the guests, and the parents were not intervening, this would also seem strange.

The children are the ones who are young, inexperienced and inquisitive. They have less control over their physical actions and their emotional outbursts. They lack wisdom, and even lack the language skills to clearly express themselves sometimes. They take extreme interest in something that has caught their attention for the moment, and it can be something that adults completely take for granted. Most parents will have experienced something like their little child gazing in wonder at the simple beauty of a dandelion flower or seed-head – something that most adults completely take for granted, and dismiss under the category of ‘weed.’

In the normal relationship, it is the parent that gently, or sometimes more forcibly, takes control (but always with love and kindness, not with violence or cruelty). The parent, above all else, stops the child from hurting or damaging or poisoning himself or herself. The child watches the parent and learns many things, and asks many questions. And as much as possible a good parent will give the child time to answer those questions, however ‘silly’ they may seem. In fact, they are not ‘silly’ questions at all – the child is trying to piece together how everything works in this world, and this is often done through play. And yes, that includes ‘play’ questions.

All this is normal and works in a close and loving relationship. The child simply knows that they are accepted, and that they will be loved even if they get it wrong, or fall, or fail. In fact – pay attention here – failing is very much part of the learning experience. If you are too afraid to fail, then it is already a sign of something wrong in the parenting at home. Too much criticism, too much expectation of perfection too soon.

Sometimes of course, we hear of those sad homes where a child is even beaten for making simple mistakes. Then this fear is brought into the school classroom, and you have the children who work very slowly and never seem to complete their work, or maybe have trouble even starting at all. They are afraid that they will do something wrong.

Failing is part of learning. When we understand how we failed, or what caused it, then we have the new wisdom of what to avoid or change the next time. And so the encouragement is to try again. With young children, to fall or to fail is emotional – and then the arms of love are required. It does not really matter whether the arms of mum or dad, just that the love is unconditional and available.

And, to me, it is this aspect of good parenting that is revealed in “seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The young child should never be left completely alone. Mum or dad should be near, or if that is not possible maybe it will be a grandparent or even a hired child minder. But certainly someone who is trusted and who will be known to have patience and to show comfort and love when needed. But sometimes that person will be busy doing something in the home. The child was playing and something happened to scare the child, or maybe the child fell and hurt itself. There is the need for arms of comfort, and usually they will quickly be there.

But what if the adult did not hear, because of being away from the immediate vicinity for the moment? The child will go and look for the adult to find the comfort and the encouragement that is needed. If the child does not find this quickly, it can be quite distressing or even frightening.

In the text for this study, our promise is that we can find if we seek. Jesus is even quoting the Old Testament here (Jeremiah 29:13), but it is less the context of the sinner seeking God, as in Jeremiah, rather it is that of the child seeking to be in the arms of it’s parent. Our Father will catch us when we fall. Or if we wandered too far, as children sometimes do (which parent has not experienced that moment of panic to turn around and find that the child is not where expected and for a moment you do not know where your child is?), we will find Him when we begin to seek Him. We will not be left to flounder and panic.

Even if you have known the Lord for 60 years, there is still much to learn and it is still possible to feel that you went too far or fell in some way or did something wrong. We still need the hands of the Father to pick us up, to hold us and comfort us, and to have the encouragement to try again. It is good to know it is OK, and that we will have a better chance to succeed with our new wisdom or knowledge.

In the same way, the door will be opened if we knock. Just think of earthly families again. Often the parents are doing something inside and the children are playing outside, and it is quite common for an argument to occur between the children, or the normal kind of childish accident. Or the child may have discovered a beautiful worm or some other delight and wishes to share it with mum or dad. We would think it very strange if the door was locked against the child and the child not allowed in. We would indeed think that there was something strange about the parent-child relationship in that home.

But our heavenly Father is not like that. He will delight with us about the worm we found. He wants us to rush inside to Him if it suddenly begins to rain outside, or if night has fallen and it is no longer safe to play in the dark. The door is not shut against us.

But this picture is helpful in another way. Sometimes, because of our inexperience or even because of our sin, we can feel like there is a chasm suddenly opened up between ourselves and the Father. We can feel unworthy of Him. We can feel like we deserve judgement, or even that the doors of heaven are closed against us.

Let me be clear here – these feelings are just that: feelings. They are not the reality. But the devil loves these feelings, because he loves to keep the children separated from the Father. The truth is that these feelings have their root in legalism (and the literalism that often goes with it). These feelings do not belong in the wonderful gospel that is ours through the incredible loving sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary.

Yes, you may have sinned, and you may have failed, but it is not in your own righteousness that you enter heaven. It is not according to your works. And you may sin and fail again in the future. This is what it means to be a little child. They fall, they make mistakes, they misunderstand sometimes, they can’t control their emotions and may strike out, they forget, they fail to do some things through lack of skills that still need to be learned. But the good parent has patience with all of that. It is the normal state of childhood. And the good parent comforts, brings peace to the heart and mind, brings the child back to a feeling of love and rightness – and in that comforted state can begin to explain or encourage or teach or whatever is best to do next.

And our Father is even better than that!

Because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and not in our own filthy rags of works, He sees us as His children. He sees His children learning lessons about eternal life and reality in much the same way as we can see earthly children have their ‘lessons’ when they fall or fail or misunderstand and so on… And He will never lock the door against us because of these things, just as we, as earthly parents, would never lock the door against our child who fell and grazed a knee outside.

So, to me, these well-known known verses reveal the pure and lovely parent that we have in heaven. Our wonderful Father! How grateful I am to have the best dad that there is!!

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