I’m often reminded of my priest’s words to me after my son entered my life. “All children come with a PhD,” he said, “a Parental Healing Doctorate. Your son will be your teacher.” I was reminded again of this while waiting with my son for my car to be fixed. I misjudged the time, and we had several hours to wait rather than just one. I decided we’d go for a walk and run some errands to fill the time. Walking hand in hand with my five year old son brought me reflections on my walk with my heavenly Father.
Delight in People and God
It is an interesting phenomenon that almost everyone seems to smile and soften when they meet a child. Maybe children under about six years old strike us as innocent and cute. Maybe they are simply without malice and are unthreatening. Whatever it is, as we walked through the city and through stores, peoples’ countenance would brighten and their faces would smile. This rarely, if ever occurs when I’m alone, so I am fairly certain that it was the five year old at my side. I am also admittedly biased, and I think he is the greatest five year old in the world.
While it seems commonplace to delight in children, it occurred to me that there must come an age when we cease to be delightful to others. Other people frequently seem to be obstacles and enemies. Perhaps even within ourselves, shame and contempt begin their dark work, and we cease to feel valuable or delightful to anyone.
I wondered as I walked along, what it might be like if we could all look at each other the way we look at children, or more than that, I wondered what it would be like for us all to see one another as God sees us? Other people would not be hindrances to our happiness or mere objects for our satisfaction. We would see all people as broken and beautiful, as wounded and beloved. And I suppose for many of us, our view of ourselves would have to shift as well because it is one thing to be loved and delighted in, but an entirely different thing to receive it.
While walking through a grocery store, I said, “Do you know what all these people have in common?”
“God loves every one of them.”
“Yeah, daddy,” he replied, “and they all want food.”
This gave me pause. How often do we miss that God’s love, delight and unending joy are offered to us through Christ, but we settle for food or the lesser delights of this world?
Delight in Presence
For our walk, I planned destinations along the way and tasks we could accomplish. It could have been easy to be driven by those goals and push through the day. Several times as we walked along, my son announced, “Daddy hug time!” He grasped my arm with both hands and clutched it to his cheek laughing. He reminded me that nothing we were doing that day was as important as the time together we were sharing.
I also thought of how often in life I have focused on arriving at some objective. Whether that was an event, a job, or a degree, that thing took precedent, and I easily forgot about the present moment. The present moment being the only place to truly encounter the loving presence of God. I so often forget to be like St. John at the last supper hugging Jesus (John 13:15a).
To put it another way, St. Paul says in every moment to, “pursue what is good…rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (1 Thes. 5:15-18). Can you imagine living each moment like that? Put another way, St. John of Kronstadt writes, “The Holy Trinity sees and hears me; this is the most life-giving assurance for my heart, penetrating it with peace and joy” (Kindle location 331 My Life in Christ). God sees and hears us! We do not need to be seen and heard on social media. We do not need the attention of others because we have the attention of God.
I hope that everyday we are walking with God, but regardless of the day, the destination is always Communion. In this moment, while reading this, God sees you. God loves you. He bids you be freed from sin and distraction and be filled with peace and joy.
Delight in Security
Around a hundred years ago, my grandfather, was visiting the big city. It was quite a different sight from their country farm as he walked hand in hand with his grandson, my cousin. For the rest of his life, grandpa would lament that he hadn’t held on tight enough, for in just a moment his grandson let go of his hand, dashed into traffic, and was killed.
I thought of this story as my son and I stepped into an intersection. A white coupe came speeding around a blind corner, and we stepped back onto the curb. I thought of how small children don’t understand the dangers of traffic and the world around them. Perhaps my son wondered why I didn’t allow him to cross the road at that time.
Similarly, we so often do not understand the dangers around us that God can see. God may intervene in ways we do not understand, and it can be hard to trust that He is good and that goodness and mercy are with us always (Psalm 23:6).
In very dark times, like for my grandpa, the good things and people in our lives may slip from our grasp, and we cannot hold tight to them anymore in this life. I know that my grandpa believed that Jesus made possible a resurrection from the dead. This hope for the future helped him carry on. In this life, we are also offered the hand of God to uphold us (Psalm 63:8) and to help us see that God’s presence is our greatest need and desire (Psalm 73:23-26).
As he walks with me, my son has a security that he would not have on his own, and as we walk in communion with God we find a security that spans from this life into eternity.
Delight in Dependence
As the hours passed, my son grew tired. His initial enthusiasm dimmed and his steps slowed. I considered how ridiculous it would be to grow frustrated with him and scold him, and it would be unthinkable to notice him slowing and leave him behind. I would never ever leave him. I slowed down, held his hand, and encouraged him. How much more so is God patient with our slowness and our weariness? Jesus scolded pride and willful blindness, but He always honored dependence. He delighted in the dependence of children and responded in love to the dependent imperfect faith of the people around Him. When we slow down, stumble, or grow weary, we can continue to depend upon the Lord. St Innocent of Alaska states, “Strive for the Heavenly Kingdom while you can still walk. Walk even a little bit, even if by crawling, but do it in the right direction. Then in eternity you will truly rejoice for every step you have taken!” From the first light of morning until our eyes close in sleep, may we hold the hand of our heavenly Father and walk together. For further reflection, consider reading St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians and consider the ways in which he encourages us to walk.