Children can be so full of forgiveness and unconditional love. They believe us so completely and wholeheartedly. It blows me away every day that no matter how impatient or frustrated or angry or mean I get with my children throughout the day, when I apologize and ask them to forgive me, they do so with a smile and a kiss and an “I love you, Mama,” without even a moment’s hesitation.
Among some people who believe in the doctrines of original sin and total depravity, there is an overwhelmingly heavy emphasis on sin in children, constantly pounding that point, telling them how horribly sinful they are, that it seems it is easy for parents to lose sight of the fact that their children are made in God’s image, beautiful, loving, forgiving. It is easy to forget how tenderly Jesus treated them and spoke of them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:1-6
Amounts, ratios … they matter. They show the emphasis, what is considered important.
When children are constantly told how sinful they are, and more time is spent talking to them about their sin than about God’s love and forgiveness and the power of the Cross and Communion, then the darkness of sin will overshadow the Light in their hearts. As a parent, my most important task is to do whatever I can to reflect the light of God’s love, so they are surrounded by it no matter where they turn.
“Love makes you strong. Love makes you beautiful. Love makes you precious. God loves you. Mama loves you. Daddy loves you. [Insert long list of people who love the child here.] That makes you strong and beautiful and special.”
Most days, at the end of the day, I feel like such a failure as a parent. Then at bedtime when we talk about our day and I ask my children for forgiveness for the times during the day I was impatient or angry with them, I see how quick and happy they are to forgive, I see how eager they are to talk about Resurrection and Communion when we talk about sin, and I am so encouraged and overwhelmed by the love of God they reflect towards me. They are quick to ask for forgiveness from their parents and from each other, too.
Every now and then, we talk about more difficult aspects of love and forgiveness and repentance.
- Forgiveness is one-sided: whether the offending person repents, it is always required.
- Forgiving is NOT forgetting: restoration and reconciliation can only happen if both sides are repentant, open and honest.
- Depending on the offense involved, there are situations where reconciliation is not possible till after the Second Coming, but no matter what the situation, someday, everything will be resolved.
Over the last few months, as I have started consciously trying to learn from my children, listening to them, really listening, I have found myself drawing closer to God, listening to God, appreciating the small things, noticing more, and I have found that they are so much more willing to listen to me and learn from me.
And we are all so, so much happier.
God gave me to my children so He can speak to them through me. And He gave them to me so He can speak to me through them.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
? G.K. Chesterton