SummaryWriting after a recent flying experience, Emily Reshwan offers thoughts about faith, and how children provide insight into understanding relationships.
After a long boarding process and some shuffling due to a policy that we could not fly with two lap children in the same row, my husband and I settled into our separate seats on the aircraft, each with a wiggling youngster on our lap.
I avoided making eye contact with boarding passengers because NOBODY wants to sit next to a noisy youngster on a crowded flight. But, it was a full flight, and eventually, after a series of gymnastics, a larger, older gentleman settled into the middle seat next to me.
Prior to having kids, I loved to fly. It was relaxing to pop in the earbuds, watch a movie, read a book, or maybe take a nap. Engaging with the passenger sitting next to me was a choice entirely up to me. However, as all parents know, children purge you of much attachment to self, so even these small “luxuries” while flying have been sacrificed, and the travel process has become more of a final hurdle to overcome in achieving vacation.
Sharing My Joy as a Catholic
Before we had even left the ground, my almost two-year-old was trying to make friends. I had tried distracting him with a board book full of brightly colored trucks. He was taken with a picture of a water truck, the name of which he kept repeating loudly and pointing out to anyone who would take notice.
The gentleman in the seat next to me was a great sport, who nodded and smiled, echoing the words “water truck” back to my son for about 15 minutes. Surrendering to the reality it would be more awkward to avoid conversation, I offered a few more words besides “water truck” by way of introduction
That launched us into a conversation that lasted over two hours. The gentleman shared many life stories and experiences he and his wife had enjoyed in the raising of their two daughters. He emphasized the need for spending time with your kids and relishing in their early years because time is so fleeting.
He shared his habit of writing down the many funny things his daughters would say as youngsters, which they would laugh over years down the road when read aloud at family gatherings. He expressed his excitement to have his own grandchildren soon.
Toward the end of our flight, he circled back to the introduction I had given of myself as a Catholic schoolteacher and asked about my experience as a Catholic. I was so excited for the opportunity to share! He then revealed he had once met with a priest because of a desire to explore the Faith through the RCIA program and wasn’t sure if he should still pursue the interest.
I encouraged him and shared with him the beauty, truth, and joy my husband and I have found within our Catholic Faith and our zeal to pass it on to our sons. I told him about EWTN and other great Catholic resources, which he said he would check out.
At the end of the flight, he stated he was even more interested in the Catholic Church because the Catholics he had encountered seemed excited about living the Faith and shared it with him as just part of the fabric in a life story.
After saying our goodbyes, I disembarked, feeling a little sheepish over my initial hesitation at striking up conversation. I had been enriched by the gentleman’s experiences and humbled that I could share my joy as a Catholic with a stranger. I was awed at the opportunity God had provided me through my motherhood.
Through my wriggling, noisy, and overly friendly toddler, God had opened a door to talk about Him, His great love, the joys of parenthood, and the beauty of our Church. It has given me pause to wonder on God’s tremendous blessings in my life, particularly the gift of my children, and the way He uses them to teach us fundamental truths about Himself.
To begin, the way we develop relationships with our children will shape how we approach relationships outside the home. Our children demand our constant attention to little details. Even in writing this article, I have been interrupted countless times for the smallest things. A toy must be turned off, a diaper changed, a picture drawn, a snack given, a hug or a kiss bestowed.
We do not hesitate to fulfill the needs of our little ones because we sense their helplessness; we are moved by their inability to achieve these ends on their own. In so doing, we help to build a relationship of trust, security, and above all, love.
We must be engaged with our children to foster that deep sense of belonging within them that enables them to understand their relationship with their Heavenly Father. It is through these little acts of love that we curb our own selfishness and become more acutely aware of the needs of those surrounding us.
Then, we carry this experience into our relationships with people outside the home that God puts into our lives. By allowing us to experience the dependence of our children, God also gives us a sense of the same helplessness felt by those who have not yet encountered Him, by those seeking His presence in an often-confusing world.
Just as our children could not thrive without our aid, others rely upon our acceptance of God’s grace to be His instruments of love. Unlike our relationship with our children, it is more difficult to be attentive to the needs of the stranger, to be the Good Samaritan wherever we journey.
We can turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to the person next to us and potentially pass up an opportunity to be God’s conduit of grace in that person’s life. Our lives and our approach to those around us must be purposeful.
In a manner of speaking, God NEEDS our openness to do His work, to reach the hearts of those untouched by His love. A child has such an innocent perspective of the world around him. He possesses a unique gift of openness, no fear of being judged, and little inhibition about inviting others into his world of wonder and curiosity.
If only we, as adults, with the perspicacity of age, could recapture this childlike approach to the world and share so easily the Source of our joy to those around us.
God’s Little Ones
Finally, our children help us to unearth a key to understanding our relationship with God. In Scripture, Our Lord speaks with great tenderness of children. The same little ones that create huge messes, get into much mischief, and cause us to pull out our hair at times, bring immense joy to the heart of Jesus. This gives us such hope!
We, too, are God’s little ones. God is a Father to us all. He sees our messes, our confusion, our insecurity, our fears, and He wants us to share all of that with Him. He wants us to approach Him without fear, to trust we will delight Him with our simplest words and desires.
He wants us to lay bare our vulnerabilities, our struggles, our failures, so He can help us. Before God, we have the deepest helplessness. When we unreservedly respond to God’s invitation to love, we allow Him to work within us.
By throwing ourselves completely into His arms of mercy and acting upon the grace that He bestows on each of us, God can and does work great miracles in and through our lives.