How to get them ready to say yes when the time comes
After writing here about my kids not going to Mass or confession, I got my hopes up that somehow my prayers would be quickly answered, and this Christmas a miracle would bring them all back. Some of them even asked to go to confession for the first time in a long time, and they all agreed to go to Mass on Christmas day. But in the end, that didn’t happen.
Our two oldest didn’t go to Mass, and the ones that did go are still struggling with the same things they were struggling with before. What I realized as I looked up at the Eucharist on Christmas morning is that my children are no different from anyone else. They have struggles. Who doesn’t? It’s part of the human condition.
The story of humans and God-with-us is a love story, and each one of our stories unfolds differently. That is easier to accept when we talk in general terms about other people, but when it comes to the beings we have given birth to, it’s not that simple. As mothers, we begin to think that our job is to make sure our kids live a pain-free life. From the moment our children are placed in our arms, we make it our mission to keep them safe, free from all suffering, all pain.
That’s impossible, of course. What lives won’t suffer and know pain at some point? We do our best to teach our kids who God is and where they can find him in those moments when life is just too much.
We want to make sure they become saints, but there’s no secret formula for that, right? If you read the lives of the saints, in each case, there came a time when they had to say yes to God. Their parents and guardians vowed to raise them in the faith, but their children are created as individuals by God and, each will get his or her own annunciation. They each will have to make their own fiat.
That is what we must prepare them for — that moment when the mission is given and consent must follow. How do we do it? By modeling Mary’s fiat, and following God’s own example.
Coming right out of Advent, we have a pretty good idea exactly how it is that God prepares us for our moment of encounter with him. God, the creator of the universe, became man and dwelt among us. He put himself in our shoes, he laughed, he cried, he suffered, he loved his mother and father, he drank wine, he had friends and he danced (that’s not in the Bible, but I think Jesus danced because people dance at weddings and the Bible does say he went to at least one wedding). He prepares us each year for the moment that he became man and was born in a manger so that he could do all of those things and more with us, and finally suffer pain and death, for us, with the “yes” at Gethsemane.
He was born so that we could always know that we aren’t alone, that God is with us. We have to give our kids the faith that no matter what comes, they are never alone, because we will be with them, as faithful as God, but knowing they will suffer. We won’t just buy them things or take them to school and extracurricular activities, but we will be with them. Jesus didn’t just do stuff for us, he was with us. He is still with us.
It’s easier for kids to believe God will always be there for them, and therefore to say yes when the time comes, if the parents have modeled always being there for them.
For us parents, the best weapon we have to prepare our kids to encounter God in their lives is to get to know them. Not who we think they are or should be but who they really are. After years and years of telling them what to do and when to do it, we forget that they are their own people. We know of them, but at some point they start knowing themselves and start trying to find themselves. Out of fear, we try to stop them but really what we need to do is keep them company on their journey, walk with them as they do that, even through the detours they might take.
Our love for them will be the light that guides them toward the only one who can help them know who they are, even in hard times, just as God does for us, through every whispered yes.