Living with children provides us with invaluable wisdom.
1You are not in control
Children confront us with a fundamental reality: we are not in control.
Caring for a newborn can feel like being the secretary of a capricious boss. “Now correct this text,” and before the secretary has even finished, “Now go to the post office,” followed by plenty of other tedious tasks, without any break in between. No matter how big our efforts to master our children and our home, multiple events will occur each day that do not fit into our plans. A parent has no choice but to surrender and take every moment as it comes.
In the end, surrendering to the will of God consists of a similar process. Considering God and the history of salvation, the motto we should live by is “Expect the unexpected.”
2The need to let go
Being a parent is also a training school in letting go. Usually even trying to conceive doesn’t happen on your time table. The same holds true for giving birth. You need to be relaxed, trust, and put everything including yourself in the hands of God.
3Not putting yourself first
During our marriage preparation, the priest told us: “Every extra child is a ‘no’ to egoism.” How right was he! When we decided to follow Jesus, we all had the intention to stop making ourselves the center of the world. When spending a day with children, this intention becomes very real. It can be challenging to accept that your will and your desires are not the be-all-end-all.
4The true meaning of freedom
Freedom is not doing whatever you feel like doing. The limits children impose on our day-to-day life are incredible. And yet, it is impossible to increase our freedom in these very circumstances. If we do not feel free amidst the limits our children impose on us, it’s because we need to grow in love.
5The secret of redemption
Pregnancy can feel like a nine-month succession of diseases: exhaustion, nausea, low quality of sleep, not being able to walk without pain, swollen feet and other conditions I would rather omit here. This way, a pregnancy intimately contains the secret of redemption. In order that someone else may live, I freely take on this suffering. At the moment of giving birth, a woman deeply experiences the mystery of the Cross.
6Without Me you can do nothing
When we arrive in this world, there is truly nothing we can do on our own. We need to be washed, clothed, fed, consoled, put to sleep, and the list goes on. This is a reminder of the fact that humans fundamentally need each other. Unbridled autonomy is an illusion. On a deeper level, it reminds us that we are absolutely helpless without God. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us in John 15:5.
7The gaze of the Father
Scripture reveals to us that we are children in our relationship to God the Father. As a result, being a parent on earth is an easy way to realize how God must feel about us. It’s a very imperfect reflection though: in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Mt. 7:11)
At eight months of age, our daughter was in a lot of pain, having an ear infection on both sides and multiple teeth coming through. When I saw her suffering, I could feel a glimpse of the fatherly compassion God must feel over us. Thoughts welled up in me: “If only you knew how I long to take on your suffering.” “I would do anything to save you.” “If only you could understand how much I love you.”
When seeing the extreme mess that our little ones make at the table, it is easy to imagine the mess we make of our lives, and how that does not devalue the love God has for us. Amidst all their bad behavior, one spark of regret is enough to make our heart melt and forgive wholeheartedly.
On the flip side of the coin, our little ones serve as models of how we should live. They can be totally happy for the simplest of reasons. If they fall, they immediately stand up and run again, not worrying about their mistake. They always look forward. They are not complex. They have unlimited trust in their parents.
Even if our culture may not always value new life, the gift that children are to the world is immense. Through the spiritual lessons they teach us we can be confident: God adores them!
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