Everything – and I mean everything – is simply better when we stay close to God!
Next year for various reasons my children will be changing schools. As a result of this change in schools my children who have always been dropped off and picked up from school will have to start catching the school bus to and from school.
This is a huge change for them and for me as well and there are a lot of factors for three relatively young children to consider in this transition…
Firstly, there is a huge amount of freedom in getting oneself to and from school without your mother dropping you off at the door. For the first time in their lives, these children will be standing alone and in public, unsupervised by an adult, waiting in a public space and following the public rules of society.
Secondly, there is the issue of responsibility. For the first time in their lives, these children will have to ensure that they get out of their classroom on time to catch the bus. They must be standing at the bus stop waiting for the school bus and they will have to make sure they get off at the right bus stop so that they can walk home. Also – and perhaps even more importantly – the children will need to ensure that they work together to do this! After all, it would be a truly terrible outcome for a couple of my children to arrive home without any knowledge of what happened to their third sibling…
Thirdly, there is the issue of danger. For the first time in their lives, these children will have to apply the “road safety” and “stranger danger” rules that have been drilled into them from the moment they could begin to comprehend them. And I shall have to trust that they are capable of doing this while I am not physically standing next to them to remind them to do this.
This is a frightening thing for these children and for me – perhaps even more frightening for me as their mother because I love them so much, that my whole focus is on their safety and wellbeing, and it would be so much easier for me to do everything myself to ensure that this happens. And yet, I know that this is also an important step in their development, and essential – in many ways – in helping my children to grow into responsible contributors of society. In saying this I am in no way dismissing children who do not use public transport to get to school – I never caught public transport until I started university, and it did not adversely affect my life – rather I am suggesting that there is benefit to be had even through experiences that are uncomfortable.
I have been reflecting on this public-transport experience very much over the last few weeks and I have noticed that there is not much difference in the things my children will face in their experience with public transport next year – God willing – and the things we each must face during our Earthly lives while on our journey to salvation…
Just as my children will experience great freedom through their adventures on the school bus, so too do we experience freedom as God allows us to make our choices for good or ill throughout the course of our lives. Imagine the self-inflicted torment of God to allow us this freedom when He knows that He could do everything for us – and do it perfectly! How much He loves us to allow us this freedom.
And similarly, just as my children need to be responsible in the choices they make while a supervising adult is not standing with them, so too do we need to make responsible choices while God is not physically standing with us. And we, like my children, need to work together to do this! That means that we need to help each other. We need to work together to remove occasions of sin, which means we need to think twice before calling someone to engage in gossip, or hesitate before we show each other immoral things, or stop ourselves before we swear so that others do not speak those profanities. This is a difficult road to walk – but a necessary one. For just as my children will have to become responsible so that they can arrive safely home, so too must we become responsible to ensure that we can enter the Kingdom of God through our eternal salvation. And just as I would be more sad than words could ever possibly express if only a few and not all of my children arrived home, so too would God be unhappy to receive only a few of all souls home after their life here on Earth. And terrible is the sadness of this “infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing” as the great stream of consciousness realist poet, T.S. Eliot would say in describing God…
And then, there is the danger. The danger of all that could go wrong and all the traps my children could fall into. I can only teach them what is right and do my best to protect them, but other than that there is not much I can do. And so, I teach my children and pray for them. Our God does the same for us – His children. He teaches us and prays for us so that we will be safe from the “wickedness and snares of the devil” to use the words we pray in the prayer asking for the intercession of Saint Michael. But God does more than that, because He gives us the sacraments to renew our Grace, He listens to us to renew our love, and He gives us our guardian angels to guide us and protect us along the way.
And the miracle – the true miracle – really is… That If we do all these things correctly – if we are free, responsible and safe – we shall be like my children were the other day when I asked them to catch the local bus from our home to the local shopping centre on their own as a “test run” for how things would go on the school bus next year. They caught the bus there and I drove out to meet them when the arrived. As part of the experience, I allowed them to roam the shopping centre and return to me whenever they were ready.
They lasted 20 minutes out there on their own... They loved having the freedom to do whatever they wished – but deep down, they understood, it was simply better to stay close to their mother who loves them.
Please God – let me never grow too old to remember that…
It is simply better staying close to my Father who loves me infinitely, better than anything else could possible ever be!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.