I’ve been on this kick lately of exploring what it means to not only be a child of God, but how to live freely like one. It’s something we don’t talk about directly much. Those of us who have been in the church for a while have heard that phrase tossed around. Child of God. We have the head knowledge that this phrase defines us, but, at least for me, that’s all it’s been.
I know I am a child of God.
What I don’t know is how to live that out.
How do you live as a child of God?
Since January, God and I have been tossing thoughts around about how to practically live out this core piece of my identity. What I’m learning is that living as a child of God is far less restrictive and far more freeing than I ever believed.
Often when we talk about living for God, there’s a long list of expectations that follow:
You read your Bible and pray and show up for church on Sunday.
You volunteer and serve and go on missions trips.
We’ve summed up Christianity as a bunch of actions we take, which is part of it. Being a Christian means we live and act differently than the rest of the world. Yet these disciplines that are meant to grow our relationship with God can become heavy burdens of performance.
I’ve grown into this mindset that if I miss a day of Bible reading, if I don’t pray long enough, if I don’t say yes to that volunteer position, I’ll disappoint God and somehow miss something he wants to give me.
This whole living-like-a-child journey is God’s way of undoing that sort of slave mindset.
It sounds harsh, maybe, but that’s exactly how I’ve been living–like a slave. I try to anticipate God’s needs and desires for my life and do the thing before he asks, and definitely before he has to correct me.
I silently toe the line of trying to please him instead of simply loving him. And in the process I’ve come to see God less like the loving Father Jesus teaches us about, and more like a task master bent on making sure I serve him well and don’t screw up.
It’s an exhausting way to live, and by God’s grace he is leading me out of it. And the ways he is leading me out and rewiring my thinking is not at all what I expected.
If you’re wrestling with a similar mindset–that God has these grand expectations for you that you have to meet or he throw you out of his will–I want to offer you four ways I’ve learned–and am still learning–to live freely with God as his child.
1. Choose Freely
Somewhere along the way I forgot that I have the power to choose. I’ve long believed that there is always and only one way to go that would keep me in God’s will and I have to find it. If you’ve ever been there, you know how exhausting that can be. You agonize and stress over figuring out what the right thing is, and then once you do the thing, you agonize and stress over whether or not you made the right choice and worry about the consequences if you didn’t.
When it comes time to make decisions, I generally know pretty quickly what I want to do, but then anxiety kicks in and I wrestle with the decision far longer than I should because I want to make sure I choosing right. What if my gut instinct is wrong? What then?
As children of God we have been given the freedom to make choices. Every choice has some sort of positive or negative consequence, and it is important to weigh those things. But all this agonizing and wondering what the “right” choice is just doesn’t give an accurate view of how God works.
It’s true, there are certain times when God is clear about which way he wants us to go. But more often than not, he gives us full permission to choose. Either option will bring glory to him. We have the freedom to pick.
I’m so concerned about making sure I end up in the right place, but really all God wants us my heart. He is more concerned about the people we become rather than the place we end up.
As children we have the freedom to choose.
2. Play Freely
Children know how to play. Their imaginations run wild and the most mundane item can become something magical. We lose this ability the older we get. Our minds become so laden with bills and jobs and responsibilities that we forget how to play. So we walk around exhausted and we lose our joy.
It’s time to learn how to play again.
What is it that makes you come alive? What activities break through your sense of responsibility and give you the space to through caution to the wind? What gets you laughing out loud? What makes you feel care free?
Maybe it’s time to resurrect those things to made you feel alive and free when you were a child. Fly a kite. Play on the swings. Bring out the board games. Turn up the music. Dance. Sing. Go splash in some rain puddles.
Let the child in you come alive as you learn how to play again.
3. Wonder Freely
There are certain things in this world that make my eyes open wide and my jaw drop in awe. Stars are one of those things. There is nothing more wonderful to me than a clear night, away from the city lights, where all those stars can poke our their heads so brilliantly. I will stand and stargaze for a long as I’m able.
Part of embracing our freedom as children is taking the time to look up and marvel at this world God has made. Romans 1:20 says that all of creation reveals the glory and character of our God. He is wild and free and loving and he loves it when his children take the time to enjoy what he’s made.
When was the last time you went outside for something other than getting to the next place you need to go? When was the last time you ventured out to the woods or the mountains or the ocean–when you looked up at a brilliant sunrise, or looked down to marvel at the details of a flower petal or a butterfly’s wings.
Slow down and take a look. Let your child-like wonder come alive again at the small and big things God has created. Take time to linger. Look up at the stars. Let it remind you what an amazing Dad our God is that he would make such a world for you to explore and live in.
One of the verses I’ve been sitting on hard lately is that verse in Genesis that talks about how we are created in God’s image:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
We bear the image of our Father and are reflections of his likeness, just like I am a reflection of the likeness of my earthly father. Within that reflection, our Father has given us the ability to do some of the things he can do, and one of those things is the ability to create.
Now, before you start to tell me that you aren’t a creative person, let me assure you that, yes, you are. Your creativity just might come out in different ways. You might not be much of a painter, but you can definitely make a space feel comfy and cozy. You might not be be able to draw anything more than a stick man, but you can bring together a meal that fills people’s bellies and entertains their tastebuds.
Creativity doesn’t just apply to the creative arts. Creativity is any expression that provides an opportunity for people to connect with God and each other. Creativity is an act of worship and a way you can live out your identity as a child of your creative Father.
Cooking has become that kind of creative expression for me. I love learning skills, how certain ingredients interact with each other, what spices and seasonings taste good in certain dishes. I love hunting at the grocery store for fresh things and finding ways to substitute ingredients when I forgot to include something on my list. It’s something simple, and not what I would have traditionally called creative, but I’m finding myself coming alive when I do it.
Dear heart, you were made to live free and come alive as a child of God. Lay aside those things that are keeping you captive, those things that have you living more like God’s slave than God’s child. Embrace the truth that you are deeply loved by your heavenly Father, and ask him to reshape your ideas about what it means to live, not only for him, but with him.
This isn’t a performance. This is about relationship. Give yourself the freedom to choose and play, to wonder and create. Press into your identity as God’s child and learn to live free.
Live in his love!