I am a child of God
And he has sent me here
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dearI Am A Child of God, Hymn #301
I would be willing to wager that many of you reading along here just mentally jumped right into the chorus of this song. (Or maybe out loud, I’m not here to judge.) After all, these familiar lyrics are the first verse of one of the first hymns most of us ever learned; odds are good, you’ve known this song for decades. There’s a reason this hymn is a standby at church, as the simple beauty of both its message and its music is compelling. What a message it is, too: God is my father, he sent me to where I am, he loves me and wants me to learn and return to him someday. Beautiful. But there’s one part of it that we adults tend to miss. It’s right there, in the first four words.
I am a child.
How often do we think of being a child of God only in terms of our divine potential? (“I’m a PRINCESS!!”) While that certainly is a part of it but there’s another side too, perhaps a side we consider less: no matter how many trips we’ve made around the sun here on our earthly home, we are but children in comparison to our Father in Heaven. Don’t take my word for it — let’s see what the scriptures have to say on that account:
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, D&C 101:16)
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
“And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me….” (D&C 19:30)
“Submit yourselves therefore to God.” (James 4:7)
“And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.” (D&C 105:6)
“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.” (Job 5:17)
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me….” (Ether 12:27)
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a good sampling. Read through them, and ask yourself: is this how one would address an equal? “No, of course not,” you might say. “None of us is on equal footing with God, and we all know that.”
I am a mother of three; my children are, at present, 12, 4, and 10 months. It has been my firm belief for about the last twelve years that there are few things in this world that will give us a better understanding of God’s point of view than the overwhelming task of being a parent. This is an imperfect comparison, of course — unlike our Heavenly Father, I don’t always know what’s best. But I still do know a few things: things like how it’s dangerous for a small child to go traipsing across a parking lot all on his lonesome. Things like how if you don’t actively form good habits, you will passively fall into bad ones. Other things, like what sorts of skills will be useful to know when you’re grown and on your own, or how to hold to your faith when people you love destroy their own. How to say sorry, to say please, to say thank you, to say I love you. How to find those lessons in life that tend to hide in plain sight.
The amount of knowledge and wisdom I’ve amassed in my 36 years in this world absolutely dwarfs that of my children, and yet two of the three of them often take it upon themselves to counsel me on a myriad of topics. (The baby isn’t yet old enough to get mouthy; give it time.) And as much and as fervently as you may have vowed before those children were born that the words, “Because I said so,” (or their equivalent) would never pass your lips, once you’re actually in that role you realize that it’s not that simple at all. Sure, you could explain, but what if they’re too young or too inexperienced to understand? What if they’re not listening? What if there’s no time or no words for explanations?
As a parent, you want your kids to understand you. You hope that someday, they do. But you also have to understand that, as children, they lack that capacity. So you must teach them first to trust you, and yes, to obey you; after that, with age and experience, understanding can follow. It is the same with us and our Father in Heaven.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” And yet, how many times do we seek to counsel the Lord about his commandments, his creations, or his choice of servants? How often do we exclaim that our favorite sins ought to be exempted from the “thou shalt nots“, or complain that Brother Such-and-Such is out of touch and Sister So-and-So has got to go? Do we even go so far as to follow the current worldly trend of insisting that God made our bodies wrong? (Though, while I’m here: Really, God? Armpit hair? Gross.)
Do we seek to understand God without seeking to trust him first? Or, worse yet, do we bypass seeking to understand altogether and jump straight to the assumption that we know better?
I know I have.
And so it is, as with every gospel lesson I’ve ever taught, this one is for me, too. Being a child of God is a grand thing indeed — but never forget that it means, compared to him, you are a child. Or, in the words of King Benjamin:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
(Mosiah 3:19; emphasis added)
We are commanded to submit to God as a child should to his father because that is literally the relationship at work here. We must learn to trust him. Fortunately, we have some guidance on how to do so: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24)
And as we cultivate that trust, we find ourselves better able to be:
Led, guided, walked beside,
Helped to find the way.
Taught in all that we must do
To live with him someday.
“You Are a Child of God” – President Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2003
“Man — A Child of God” – President Marion G. Romney, April 1973
“Am I a Child of God?” – Elder Brian K. Taylor, April 2018
You can follow Angela on Twitter @angelaisms.