It took a child to remind me that God only has one question for us
In the concern (Jesus) shows for children … Jesus goes so far as to present them as teachers, on account of their simple trust and spontaneity toward others. “Truly I say to you, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).—Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, par. 18.
Do you believe you are loved unconditionally by an all-loving God? That nothing you think, say or do can make God love you more or less? This is the fundamental question of the human condition — a question we spend our entire lives trying to get answered.
Surprisingly, it was my two-year-old grandson, Joseph, who presented the opportunity for me to meditate upon these deep questions recently. That’s because adorable little Joseph — a tiny tot who consists entirely of unrelenting preciousness — walked around during our family vacation asking everyone he encountered: Do you love me?
Joseph repeatedly caught me off guard with the question, and I wish I had a picture of the satisfied, delighted look on his face every time he received an enthusiastic, “Yes!” in response. He relished in the game repeatedly — until I changed the rules.
“Joseph, do you love me?” I asked him back.
“Yessth,” he replied with a smile on his chubby little face.
“How much?” I added playfully.
He looked completely perplexed as to what I meant, so I showed him how to open his arms wide in front of his chest and say, “I love you this much!”
The game really got interesting when I upped the ante. “Well, I love you this much!” I said, opening my arms wider than his.
“You cheated!” he exclaimed spontaneously in a frustrated voice, reducing me to hearty laughter. And he was right.
We cheat love when we begin to calculate it, when we place it on scales of measurement that ultimately grow out of systems of human performance. How often do we do that in our relationship with God?
“How much do you love me, God?” we challenge unconsciously. “Will you love me more if I get it right, do it right, act just right?” Of course, we may never say these things out loud, and we’re often unaware that we’re playing the performance game with God. At least, not until we quiet down and get still and small enough to open ourselves to God’s heart-penetrating gaze, and simply ask, as little Joseph frequently asks: “Will you hold me?”
It is in those moments of grace that we can catch a glimpse of how hard we try to measure up, believing our sometimes superhuman efforts to be capable of winning us more of God’s love, favor and blessing. It is then that we are invited to experience the reality that God does not want us to earn his love but to rest in it — to rest in the infinite embrace of his tenderness and mercy that it may soften us, heal us, transform us and make us more like him.
When we begin to measure God’s love against our being able to work for it, deserve it or be worthy of more (or less) of it, we cheat love entirely of its veracity. Because here’s the thing: God is love, and he knows no other way. He loves us infinitely, unconditionally, unyieldingly, and nothing we think, say or do can ever change that fact. There is only one question he asks of us: Will we receive it? Our answer lies in another question: Do webelieve it?
When I asked little Joseph how much he loved me, his face betrayed the fact that he hadn’t the first clue what I was talking about. Childlike in his faith, Joseph believes absolutely that he is loved, and he neither challenges the answer when it is given nor understands how to quantify it. Intuitively, he knows that to enclose love in the small space between one’s hands is to cheat love. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant for us to learn when he insisted we become like little children.
Judy Landrieu Kleinis an author, theologian, inspirational speaker, widow and newlywed whose book, Miracle Man, was an Amazon Kindle Best-seller in Catholicism. This article was originally published at her blog, “Holy Hope,” which can be found at MemorareMinistries.com.