Amanda Barber

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Conversation With a Five-Year-Old

09 July 2013

It was my privilege to become an aunt at twelve years old. Since then, five more nieces and four nephews have been added to the family collection. I am thankful for the influence they’ve had on my life. I had two significantly older siblings who I assumed were put on earth to entertain and wait on me. My younger brother was fairly close to my age. So I spent most of my growing up years with little contact or experience with young children. Being thrust into “Aunthood” was a needed change. Suddenly, I had to learn how to keep little people occupied and out of trouble. I had to learn how to give of myself and relinquish my priorities for their benefit. I had to be a good example. (And believe me, when you’ve heard one too many kids have a pouting, whining, crying fit, the good example bit can be difficult.)

The strange thing is, in all my years of being an Aunt, I’ve never really tried engaging my young nieces and nephews in serious conversation…until this year. The result was rather enlightening. My youngest nephew is five years old. He is bright, active and enjoys books, Thomas the Train and pretending. At present, he is not converted. Like most kids, he prefers things to go his way, and like most kids, he tends to view his own discomfort as the principle concern of the moment, regardless of how uncomfortable everyone else is. Naturally, he believes should be made comfortable first.

Early last month, I visited the family. One sunny morning, I was sitting out on the back porch, grooming one of the family dogs. Miles came wandering out with a toy train or something. His dreamy face told me he was lost in his own little world. He was driving his toy around and making up sound effects as he went along. When the sound effects died down, a random thought passed through my mind.

“Hey, Miles,” I said.


“Do you think God wants us to be happy?”

“Um, Yes.”

“Why do you think God wants us to be happy?”

“I don’t know…because it’s fun.”

“But some things that aren’t happy are good for us, aren’t they?”


“Well, like when you do something bad and Mommy and Daddy have to discipline you. Or shots, right? It’s not very fun, but it’s good isn’t it?”


I was going to ask another question but he interrupted me mid-sentence.

“Can we stop talking?” he sighed a la Russell from the movie Up.


“’Cause it’s boring.”

I had a good chuckle with my sister when I told her the story. But then I began to think. Miles revealed the natural man to me in that conversation. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a hedonist at heart with absolutely no interest in God. In his child-like simplicity and lack of sophisticated lying methods that adults eventually learn to hide their raw selfishness, he pulled the pants down on unconverted humanity.

We want to be happy. We want to be comfortable. We want things to go our way. And we don’t enjoy spiritual discussion, because in light of our own desires and pleasures, God is really kind of boring. When we grow up, we veil our selfishness in socially acceptable behavior. We might even believe in God so long as we can fashion Him into something that never contradicts us. If we’re smart, we submit to a code of ethics. Because without ethics, life becomes so very unpleasant. And if, per chance, our desires can only be satisfied in socially unacceptable behavior, the simple solution is to mount a public relation’s campaign to make our desires acceptable.

The problem is that God’s great goal for humanity is not to make humanity happy. He wants something for us infinitely more important than our happiness. And if humanity could only get that through its thick skull, the raging debates on legalizing marijuana, gay marriage, abortion, divorce and the like would be done before they started. God wants our wills and desires to be lost in Him. Like C.S. Lewis puts it so well, “The command, ‘Be ye perfect’ is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him…He is going to make the feeblest and filthiest of us into…a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said. (Mere Christianity)”

Miles will soon discover this truth. He is surrounded with friends and family that love him and pray for his little soul. I pray that soon he will begin his own journey to sanctification. I look forward to the day, twenty years from now, when I can ask him again whether God wants him to be happy. I imagine the answer will be quite different. He’ll have discovered by then that the process to a better state of being than happiness can be very painful. But it is very good. I sometimes shudder to think what might be in store for me in that process, because I’m not nearly that dazzling creature Lewis spoke of. But I will be, and not far from now, in Heaven.

“Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” –Mere Christianity