“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
Often when we first commit to our lives to Christ, we end up striving to be perfect in our own strength. I know I did and I still slip into this Pharisaical stance. However, anyone looking at me from afar usually sees a devoted Catholic mother who has lived a sacrificial life worthy of a modern saint. Little do others realize that although I did pour out all my energy raising nine kids on a small farm with little disposable income, I missed the most important thing in life by striving rather than allowing myself to receive the love of God.
The stress of my lifestyle brought me low, low enough to finally realize I was not as Christian as I had once supposed. In fact, I realized I was actually a verified Pharisee, striving with my own strength to please God. When I confessed this devastating insight about fifteen years ago, the priest told me he had never heard a better confession but I had missed the next step, the most important step after my brutal self-examination. I was refusing the forgiveness and love of God.
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The truth is, a relationship of love with the living God is not as complicated as I once thought; it is actually child’s play. Listen to this exchange between my young children.
One afternoon, I was making dinner, standing at the counter with my back to our three youngest children. Katie and Anthony were lounging around the kitchen table, with three-year-old Lucy perched like a little elf on a high stool, happily swinging her legs.
Simply making conversation, Katie, who was about eight years old, asked Lucy, “Lucy, who's your favorite, mum or dad?”
Lucy replied, “Both!”
Still facing the counter, I looked over my shoulder and intruded on their conversation. “Smart answer, Lucy.”
But Lucy was not done; she responded, “But she’s not my real mum. Mary is.”
Katie rolled her eyes, slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand and said incredulously, “Where does she get this stuff?”
I tried to explain as simply as I could. “Well, the Holy Spirit is in her heart and she listens to His voice.”
Lucy jumped right back into the discussion and chanted in a sing-song, lilting voice. “That’s right. God the Father in my heart. Baby Jesus in my heart. Holy Spirit in my heart. Mother Mary in my heart . . . but . . . I still like mum and dad the best!”
Katie rolled her eyes and plunked her head down on the table with a loud sigh. “Where does she get this stuff?”
I just laughed.
A few weeks later, as I crouched down to tie Lucy’s shoelace, Lucy picked up the small gold cross I wore around my neck and said, “This is the cross of Jesus and the glory of God shines all around it.”
Katie rolled her eyes again, slapped her forehead and asked, “Where does she get this stuff?”
This three-year-old got it right from the source of all truth. She was humble and little enough to remain open long enough to listen to the voice of God within her and to love Him in return. She was pure enough to love those around her with a child’s devoted love — a love, in fact, that is worthy of a saint.
Love God Like a Child
Saint Paul assures us that all men have the basic laws of God carved into their hearts. In modern language, we all have an awareness of good and evil or a conscience, we all are capable of responding to the love of God, even the smallest child.
The problem is tapping into and living out from our core selves where God has inscribed his moral code on our hearts. It is hidden in our deepest selves. Actually, if we can block out our own ego and selfishness, and simply stop and listen, we can connect to the love of God within us. In my experience, children are capable of the highest moral action, acting purely from a heart full of love.
Thank God for Christ, because He offers even adults an easy way to love and to put that love into action. Relax. Give up striving. Surrender to His love and let it saturate every cell of your body. Then simply let His love flow through you. It ends up being a long journey to such carefree lifestyle because pride and ego get in the way. It is so simple that it seems complicated to our adult, logical minds.
No wonder Jesus praised children.
Copyright 2017 Melanie Jean Juneau
About the Author
Melanie Jean Juneau is a mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. Her writing is humorous and heart-warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, the Editor in Chief at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC & author of Echoes of the Divine.