Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hand in Hand to Heaven

I was teasing one of my sons the other day, saying, "You belong to me; you're mine." As I grabbed him and hugged him. Of course, he pulled away laughing, then collapsed into a hug, all while asserting his absolute independence from me. "No," I told him, "I helped make you; you belong to me; you're my baby; you are MINE." Nope, not anymore, my young teen reminded me. "Okay, then, how about this one?" I said, scooping up my baby, my one year old, "This one is definitely still mine, she belongs to me!" Nope, not her either, my son says, "You're just her steward."

"You're just her steward." My son was so right. Although I like to think of these kids as mine, and in a sense they are, of course; but no, not really, they're not mine. They belong to God, and I am their steward. Putting my relationship with my children in this perspective really puts a different emphasis on my parenting job. These children are not mine to mold into my own little images of what I think a good person or a good Catholic is. Sure, I must lead them and teach them and provide a good example to them. I must care for their bodies, nurture their souls, and help to enlighten their minds. I have authority over them and even the mandate to guide them, but it is not as a person superior to them, it is as a sister in Christ.

When I first contemplated that my primary relationship with my children and my husband was not as parent or wife, it was as their sister in Christ, I was struck. For one, I felt a freedom in understanding that these children had full integrity as persons, just as much as anyone else, and they had an entirely unique vocation and relationship with God that was separate from me. Knowing this relieved the burden of feeling that it is all up to me. God loves each of them and has a plan for them, in a way which I cannot even really comprehend.

Second, as their sister in Christ who is a little farther down the road, it is my job to guide these children and love them, but it is more as an equal, for we are all equal in Christ. Understanding this equality with them has helped me appreciate each individual as a friend and see our parent/child relationship as one primarily rooted in the virtues of charity and friendship.

In a book on meditations, In Conversation With God, Francis Fernandez, referencing R. Garigou-Lagrange, writes:
Piety towards others leads us to judge them always with kindness, which walks hand in hand with a filial affection for God our common Father.
So, in a sense, our children are the ones God has called us to walk hand in hand with, as brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing the road on the journey to sainthood. We parents are just the ones holding the map -- at least for a time.

Peace, Hope