To give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth. Proverbs 1:4
It would have been completely safe for a naive person to live in Eden. There would have been no need for discretion since there was no need to protect yourself from anyone or anything. No need to discern good from evil. No need to weigh wisdom and foolishness. Sin had not yet been introduced into everyday life.
I used to be extremely naive. If a person claimed to be a Christian, I believed them and instantly considered them trustworthy. If that person were a pastor, not only were they allowed to define my theology but I gave them the power to dictate how I was to live out my faith. A pastor was like “God” to me, yet I wouldn’t have admitted that to anyone. Since my ministry has involved rubbing shoulders with pastors and platform people over the course of 40 years, perhaps you can imagine my shock to discover that Christian leaders have feet of clay. Discovering my own has been the most painful.
No one person trained me to become street wise. My parents had many sterling qualities but they didn’t intentionally train their children. Dad and Mom lived by example and while we learned a lot from their modeling, there was a lot of wisdom that should have come from personalized instruction. In the absence of intimate interaction, the Holy Spirit took up where my parents left off. Life introduced many painful realities and with a lot of scars to prove it, I have grown to be discerning. Miraculously, without much cynicism. That is a testament to the healing work of God’s grace and forgiveness.
To be completely naive is to be childish. Kids under the age of ten possess magical thinking. They have not learned how the world works yet. God calls us to be His children; childlike but not childish. Can we be childlike yet discerning? Can the two traits coexist? Absolutely. I am childlike because I trust God completely. I am prudent because I trust people to be human. I remember John’s words about Jesus. Many people noticed the signs he was displaying and entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. John 2:23-25
Teach me how to see the best in people without being deceived. Only you can help me navigate the blurred lines, Jesus. Amen