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Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Belief of Children

I read a great post today over at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering, a review of the new "Charlotte's Web" movie, which I cannot wait to see!

But her review made me think and contemplate, that even as adults, we still have the ability to aspire to child-like belief, and in fact, Jesus admonishes us to do just that!

As adults, we are all forced to be practical, realistic, and to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. However, a balance needs to be struck somehow; our very faith requires that we accept things without physical proof, and acknowledge the unseen daily.

As a child, I read "Charlotte's Web", over and over again, and while, to this day, I fear and despise spiders, Charlotte has always held a special place in my heart. I cried real tears when she died. I pondered the doctor's words to Fern's parents, reminding them that the imagination of a child is a fleeting but valuable thing and should be treasured for as long as possible. Today, that passage makes me cry for I fear I am Fern all grown up, having forgotten the belief in things beyond my experience.

When I read "The Chronicles of Narnia", I remember going each day to check the back wall of my closet, just in case there was a passage to Narnia for me, too. And I really BELIEVED that it was possible, although I never confessed this to anyone at the time. Yet for years, I begged for a doorway to open so that I could meet Mr. Tumnus, so that I could meet a talking horse, and dine with the Kings and Queens of that beautiful and far away land.

Perhaps now you laugh at such fancy, and as an adult, I do, too. But at the same time, I can't stop the pangs of bittersweet remorse for my indulgent laughter, for I cannot get the Biblical admonition to become like the children. For, as Jesus said, it is only those who are like these children who will inherit the Kingdom of God.

What does this mean?

Chilren are humble; they are small vessels of God's abundant grace, and they accept, unquestioningly, that the Divine is among them. They have not thrown up barriers and they do not know the careful art of argument and debate. Their lives are simple and if we tell them that Jesus is in the tabernacle, they accept this, although granted, with many questions for they cannot understand how a full-grown man can live in such a small space. But they will still accept this as Truth and go about their day resting in the knowledge that Jesus is always there.

Children are in contact with the mystical, which we as adults shut out all to often. We hear that "still, small voice" in our hearts and call it "imagination", wheras children may be conversing fluently with the Angels and just consider it to be a part of daily life.

I remember, as a child, when I still had to stand on the kneeler in order to see over the pew, our parish always sang the "Our Father" during Mass. I don't think Father Weber usually used a microphone for our church was very small, but during that prayer, when he offered his part before the doxology, I remember that a gentle, yet overpowering voice spoke over the music. It didn't sound like Father Weber, because the voice was far too BIG to be his. I remember how everyone stood silently against the subdued background music,praying, yet there was no outward recognition as to what was going on. Not that I could see.

I became convinced that God was speaking to us Himself. This went on for a couple weeks as I became more and more perplexed as to why no one reacted when God was speaking so audibly. His voice was EVERYWHERE, and no one seemed to care!

So the next Sunday, during this part of the prayer, I could contain myself no longer. I realized that I was the ONLY PERSON who realized that this was GOD'S VOICE and thus it was my duty to make sure everyone gave Him the reverence He was due.

I tugged at Mom's sleeve..."Mom!" I said in a loud whisper.

She shook me off.

I became more urgent in my request, pulling on her arm, raising my voice a little more. This was the most important thing I had ever said, and I would not be denied! God was SPEAKING to us and NO ONE SEEMED TO NOTICE!

"MOM!" More urgent, a note of hysteria entering my voice.

"SHHHHH!" She shushed me.

I was actually a very shy child, and by this point, people around us were beginning to stare. I was faltering, but I really believed that God was speaking, so I HAD to persevere, in spite of my own inclination to be silent and hidden. So I raised my voice once again, tugging on her arm insistently, desperately trying to call her attention to God's voice.

Finally, she turned to me, visibly annoyed, finally listening as I told her, "Mom...that's God! God is talking to us!"

Mom did nothing; she just looked me in the eye and told me to be quiet.

And then Father's part ended, Mom continued to look irritated as we sang the Doxology, and I realized I had failed in calling attention to God's voice. People around us were snickering, and I didn't understand why, so I chose to ignore them.

They continued to smile at me throughout the remainder of the Mass and made special effort to shake my hand, but my greeting to them was lackluster, for I felt that I had failed in my divine mission, although I didn't realize that that's what it was.

Of course, as you've gessed by now, there was no voice of God; rather only a child mistaking the wonders of modern technology.

But I will never forget that day, because as an adult, I only WISH I could so unquestionably believe that God is speaking to us. I only WISH I would be so obedient to calling the attention to those around me to God's presence.

There I was, a little girl, no voice or status at all, yet so convinced of God's actual presence that I literally overcame my shyness and made a fool of myself in order to make sure everyone else knew about it. God still requires this of us all, and how often do we listen to that prompt?

I wish I had the humility I had as a little girl.

This coming week, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, as a helpless infant, a humble little child. And we perhaps have other little ones in our lives who have no problem believing that Jesus was a child once, just like them. They have no problem relating to Him; they have not yet learned to throw up barriers and suspend belief.

This week, don't just focus on the final touches for Christmas dinner, the hectic cleaning or traveling, the toys being put together for the children in the name of "Santa", but take some time to remember what it was like to be a child, to believe without question, to understand that God could and does move among us every single day....and when you look at Jesus in the creche, don't just "ooh" and "ahh", but BELIEVE.

Allow yourself to be a child again, if only for just one night...and allow God to reveal Himself to you once again in a renewal of what we celebrate in this blessed season.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: This is a beautiful post. When I was a child I used to call the Tabernacle Jesus' house. When the curtains were drawn He was sleeping so we had to be quiet.

Jesus really meant it when He said we have to become children. Children have better faith.

Look at how overjoyed kids are too see the creche in church and the Baby Jesus inside. It's one of my favorite things about Christmas is watching the kids at the creche.

Anonymous said...

You got all that from MY post?!? :)

One of the values my husband and I hold very dearly is the childlike. Childhood is far too fleeting, and we are cherishing seeing it unfold before us. You give voice so well to all the reasons why we feel this way, why we don't pick up the living room, why we encourage Toddler-tron to become comfortable with Padre and revel in the wonder of our faith.

I still check the back of my closet too. We have one that I'm pretty sure DOES lead somewhere else. Maybe someday, when my daughter is just a bit older, she'll be able to discover it, and then I can write about it.

Lewis was a genius with the Narnia books (you read them all, right?). Have you read the space trilogy? I read the first one early in the autumn, and I'm up to read the last two sometime this winter. They're short, but no less magical and amazing than Narnia. Different, yes. But wonderful reading.