Monday, May 3, 2010

From the Mouths (or Attitudes) of Babes

We do not need to look any further for concrete evidence of our own tendency to disobey than our own children.  Before I get any further in I must say, my wife and I have not been blessed with the gift of children yet.  However, she has always had a knack for identifying and shaping childrens' spirits.  Those skills were fine tuned during the several years she spent as an elementary school teacher, so when she speaks or points out anything child-related that I as a hopeful dad need to know, I do my best to listen.

One trait that she identified and first pointed out to me a couple of years ago was an innate tendency in the vast majority of young children to pursue their own narrow-sighted will over the protective and broader-scoped will of their parents.  Any of you who have children know exactly what I'm talking about: insistence on sticking metal objects into unprotected electrical outlets, ingesting harmful substances that happen to look like Kool-Aid, and turning just about any manner of household tool into an implement of danger and destruction, sometimes over and over again with the same less-than-pleasant effect.  As we've observed our friends and loved ones begin to raise  their children, sometimes we cannot help but stand in puzzled awe wondering exactly what must've been going through that child's mind.  Little children need nearly constant protection from themselves.

We can also probably remember in our own not-so-distant pasts, well into our teens and young adulthood, instances where we defied our parents' loving cautions because, ultimately, we thought we knew better.  It's not until we reached the age of having kids ourselves that we realized, for the most part, mom and dad were usually right.  Of course there are exceptions to the rule: negligent or unloving parents who seriously faltered in their responsibility of shepherding children into responsible adulthood, but for now I'm just focusing on the well-meaning, "normal" (as much as I generally abhor the use of that word) parents that most of us had.  As a child and teenager, my dad's punishment often seemed to be an unreasonable, arbitrary, and autocratic laying down of the law.  One day, though, that all changed.  I don't remember the exact date, but I do remember the feeling when when God gave me a serious adjustment in perspective.  Looking back now as a bona fide grown-up, I realize that without the discipline he and my mom gave, there's at least a fair chance that I wouldn't be here writing this post today.

Now let's apply the illustration to a bigger parent-child relationship, between our heavenly Father and we, his adopted children.  (Yes, I stress adopted; more on that in a later post).  Does it often seem that God--and his representative body, the Church--lay down a bunch of arbitrary, unfair "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots"?  It did for me, until a few years ago, right about the same time that my perspective of my earthly Father's discipline changed.  Coincidence?  I think not.  It is not until we ask for and willingly receive the grace that God freely offers, to see things more and more from his perspective, that we're ever able to rise out of our rebellious, sinful, and ultimately self-destructive tendencies.  Until we invite him in, we remain ignorant infants in faith, blinded by our own headstrong willfulness and unable to understand why he put so many rules in place, first on the two stone tablets given to Moses, later in the laws handed to the Levites, and finally by sending his own Son--his very Word--to live among us, speak to us, and show us the way back to the Father as our brother and fellow human being.  He gave us all of those rules and commandments for one reason: because he loves us as any parent loves their child, except infinitely so, and in that love decided to save us from ourselves.  If we do not follow them, we are like the headstrong child who, left without parental intervention, would eventually do themselves in, all the while thinking, "I know better."

Christ, the God-man, died for us and in the process of his living and dying on earth.  He obeyed, even though his humanity led him to dread fear of the horrible death that he knew he was being led to so much that "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground" (Lk 22:44)  Yet in the end he surrendered, as he always had, to the Father's will; "not my will but yours be done" (Lk 22:42).  In the process, he gave us the perfect example of how to live as obedient children.  If we join him, we can be assured that our all-powerful and infinitely loving Father will reward us with the eternal glory of Easter Sunday.

No comments:

Post a Comment