This morning I dropped my daughters off at school and they both walked in without looking back. This is quite a change from the beginning of the year, when my kindergartner would cling to me for dear life before I left. I had to walk her down to her classroom, help her put her backpack in her cubby, and give her a dozen hugs before leaving. After a few days of that routine, we shortened it so that her big sister walked her to the classroom, so long as I stood in the entryway where she could see me until she got to her classroom. Then when she got more comfortable with school and more self-reliant, I was able to wave at her from the doorway when she turned the corner to go to her classroom. And now she doesn’t even bother to look back. She’s on her own.

This is a bittersweet aspect of parenting, but a necessary one. After all, it would be weird to walk hand-in-hand with a high schooler to his classroom and give him a hug and kiss before leaving. Part of our goal as parents is to shape our children into self-reliant, responsible citizens who can function independently and contribute to the overall well-being of society. We parent our children knowing eventually they will not need us anymore.

The same is not true of children of the Heavenly Father. All too often, people view religion as something to “grow out of.” Oh, it’s nice to send kids off to Sunday School and watch them in the children’s Christmas program. Sure, it’s a good idea to send them to confirmation class, but as they get older and obtain more “knowledge,” they’ll come to see that they don’t need God as much or at all. It’s like believing in Santa Claus too long—childish and naive. Self-sufficient and independent adults don’t need God. They’re on their own.

This line of thinking is entirely wrong. If anything, I need God more as an adult than I ever did as a child. When I was growing up, my parents saw to it that I had food and clothes and a house in which to live. They provided for me and helped me make decisions. But now that I’m an adult and have my own children to provide for and my own decisions to make, I know it’s not nearly as easy or as fun as I’d thought it would be. I need God’s Word to guide, correct, and strengthen me, and to reassure me when I’m feeling guilty or discouraged.

I may buy clothes for my kids and make meals for them, but God gives them life and breath. He keeps their hearts beating and their brains functioning. He blesses my husband and me with the means to provide for them. God blesses the earth with rain and sun in season, so that the plants grow. He maintains all of creation. Without Him, life would cease to exist. And this almighty God doesn’t stop there. He has provided for an even bigger need. More than food and clothes and good health, we need salvation. God sent Jesus to this sinful earth as true God and true man, to live a perfect life in our stead, to die for our sins, and to rise victorious from the grave. Because of Jesus’ saving actions on our behalf, our eternity is secure.

Romans 8:15 explains our relationship with God as one of children to a Father. “[Y]ou have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” What a beautiful picture. God has chosen us; adopted us into His family. Abba is Aramaic for “Father,” and conveys an intimate and childlike relationship, much like a young child calling his father “Daddy.” That’s the type of relationship God desires with us. A childlike confidence that our Daddy will always provide for us, that we can ask anything of Him in prayer and He will answer. It’s a relationship that grows and deepens as we get older. In other words, we can never grow out of it. We’ll never be on our own. Our Abba is always with us.

Photo is Holding Hands by Steven Feldman