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Advent Reflection: Children are Promise Carriers
By Sonja Corbitt
December 4th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
In my most desperate times my three year old has been known to hold my face in his miniature hands and tell me 'You’re my pleasure'.BETHPAGE, TN (Catholic Online) - “Before God, who is eternal, you are much more a child than, before you, the tiniest toddler. And besides being a child, you are a child of God. — Don't forget it” (Josemaria Escriva, Spiritual Childhood).
It is the season of hospitality, time to welcome friends and family into our homes,time to prepare for welcoming the birth of the Child whose life makes the whole world new again. Yet, some of us are horrible hosts who lack the hospitality gift, at least in the conventional way. This bothers some who think our reticence is an indictment of their own social proclivities, and surprises those who label us with adjectives akin to “outgoing” or “bubbly.” Yet even those of us short the party gene love the festivity of this season.
It is telling then, that Advent is centered around hospitality, welcoming a child, a child of Promise. Oriented to the Roman winter solstice, the arrival of the Child coincides with the arrival of the sun and the end of the longest, darkest day of the year. To welcome this Child is to welcome light and hope into the darkness of our world.
I would argue that we are routinely presented with the opportunity to “entertain angels,” that we also welcome light and hope by hosting secret teachers in our homes. Upon their arrival we might believe they are mere children, cute little responsibilities that we must teach and mold and nurture:
“A young man according to his way, even when he is old, will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). I assumed this meant I must discipline them in the proper paths. How, then, are they so incisive, so penetrating, if they are not spies planted by God?
When my oldest was two he determined he would dress himself and consistently wore mismatched socks, even though I paired them carefully and laid them out for him. The difficulty I had in stifling the overwhelming urge to make him change revealed a silly perfectionism, and began a series of confrontations with incidents in which he behaved according to his personality and temperament, but I was strongly tempted to force him to conform to my, or other people’s, expectations.
From my son I learned that dark emotions provoked by others’ personality expressions are often signals that there is a lesson present for me through them, and that a lack of respect for the divine timeline of others’ unique development, spiritual or otherwise, simply exacerbates everyone’s anxiety and stymies our potential.
He taught me that differences are resources rather than deficits. I once corrected a picture he had drawn by asking why he had colored the people yellow. He reported in sensible tones that it was the way he felt about morning. Duh.
At eleven, it only took a couple of sarcastic remarks escaping from his mouth to recognize my own tone, and I learned to my chagrin that I am a smart aleck who often answers questions with sarcasm. I can always tell when my priorities have become muddled and my offspring need individual time with me, because their behavior degenerates into mob mentality and something is usually broken.
But I have also learned that dandelion fluff makes my hair look prettier and watermelons make the best bombs. We should not wear watches or talk softly. We should learn to speak Sioux, eat more broccoli trees and less pie, and sing Shakespeare.
I have learned God writes operas from the music of rivers, whispers “I Love You” through the wind, and sends us poetry in the Psalms. Since “all things are possible with God” I also know He could bake thirty minutes brownies in two minutes, and that pennies thrown in wishing wells are prayers He might grant.
Did you know one’s perspective is broader from the limbs of trees, and broader still from one’s knees? How else might picking wildflowers, growing lettuce, and gathering eggs all be lessons in treasure hunting? Pain will pass, but laughter is eternal, godly; I have it directly from sages, and I, on miraculous rare occasions, get a glimpse of a poignant love and intimate gratitude that God experiences when “brothers live in unity” and care for one another with real love (Ps. 133:1).
While God loves me tenderly and deliberately through them, He is teaching me to really SEE. In my most desperate times when I feel no one really sees me, my three year old has been known to hold my face in his miniature, grubby hands and tell me, “You’re my pleasure.” “In the spiritual life of childhood the things children say or do are never puerile or childish” (Josemaria Escriva, Spiritual Childhood). The things children say and do frequently heal the blind.
My children carry an inherent message, a promise, one that I must allow the room to emerge. It is not my message. I don’t plant seeds of my legacy in them. We hold one another’s hands along the path to sanctity for a while, but they carry their Father’s legacy, just like the first Child of Promise.
It is my job to provide an environment of hospitality where their weaknesses are minimized and their gifts and talents can come forward and be acknowledged and strengthened and released to a waiting world. The necessity of this hospitality might worry me if it weren’t for how desperately I love them and want to welcome them, these promise carriers.
Instead it comforts me to know He chose me to receive the gift they are, and in receiving them as guests and not possessions, I will reveal to them that they have something to offer, something beautiful, something of the image of God. I must offer the same hospitality in my own heart, allow Him to minimize my weaknesses and use my strengths, and thus prepare to welcome His promise for me this Christmas.
At times my priorities are so askew I forget there is any such thing as intrinsic value, and that through God, I can glimpse it, but my children teach me that mystery isn't something that is gradually diminishing in a modern world; it simply grows with my simplicity.
And truly, I reiterate, nothing’s small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars,
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere.
No finch but implies a cherubim;
And glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,
In such a little tremor of blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their faces unaware. (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh)
Sonja Corbitt is a Catholic Scripture teacher, study author and speaker. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit her at www.pursuingthesummit.com and www.pursuingthesummit.blogspot.com.
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