As adults, we’re quite accomplished at making things complicated. Prayer, for example. Or, finding God in all things. We can turn a simple concept of paying attention into a theological puzzle, can’t we?
Fortunately, God designed humans to start out small and grow up gradually. So the world is never populated only by adults. We have children to balance our adult-ness, which is a great blessing.
Do you want to find God in all things this week? Then hang out with a child. And follow the lead of this little person.
1. Live in the moment.
Children have a natural ability to live right now without obsessing over what comes next. Although, unfortunately, we train them at an early age to become anxious, most children whose basic needs are met and who live in safe environments will revert to their true nature of enjoying the moment without the burden of worrying about what comes after it. Living in the moment is a basic practice for encountering God.
2. Indulge in wonder.
Have you ever been around kids when they first encounter a polar bear through the glass of the underground zoo-aquarium? Or when they learn how to ride a bike? Or when they see something they’ve never seen before? Their eyes widen, their jaws drop, and they make all sorts of wonder sounds. When was the last time you allowed yourself to be amazed, to stand in awe of anything? Wonder is the art of receiving beauty and knowledge that’s much bigger than any person. When we allow ourselves to wonder, we will find God at the heart of the experience.
3. Ask big questions.
Children aren’t afraid to keep asking Why?: Why are there galaxies? Why do turtles do that? Why do I have to do these boring exercises on the piano or clarinet? They ask because they want to know, and they trust that there’s an answer hiding somewhere. We adults become cynical and live sometimes as if there are no answers—that everything is complicated and hopeless, so why ask questions? What will that change? Yet, the psalmists and prophets kept asking God Why? when the world was broken, when people were in need, or when they didn’t understand how to deal with life. Be brave like a child, and ask the questions that are important to you.
4. Try, even though it’s risky.
To children, every day is an experiment—trying to build things out of sticks and stones; trying to get to the next level on a video game; trying to dance or sing like the entertainers they admire. If they are given permission by the adults in their lives, kids try without fear of failure or ridicule. I believe that God wants us to try living as people without fear of failure, of what others think, or of wasting time.
5. Rest when you’re tired.
I love how children will run at full speed and then stop and collapse and sleep the sleep of unhurried angels. Although we adults can’t (usually) simply take a nap when needed, we probably could unplug from life earlier each day or more frequently and allow healthy rest to restore and reset us. This also allows the Holy Spirit to work within our spirits through dreams and the other unconscious work of the mind.
6. Accept the way you feel.
Children who grow up in loving, safe households are allowed to feel the emotion that wells up moment by moment. They are also taught how to identify their emotions and work with them in healthy ways. How many of us adults continue to avoid facing our anger or sadness? How adept have we become at pushing our true emotions down and out of the way? Yet, these very emotions could guide us into authentic conversation with God, who desires to meet us in the moment, however we feel. Working prayerfully with our emotions is one of the most dramatically effective ways to find God in life as it is.
Today, thank God for any children in your life. And try to spend some time with them and let them guide you to the Father.
When our children were young, summer Sundays generally meant gathering at Nana’s house to share in the goodness of family, food, yard games, and lively adult conversations about world shattering events. Suddenly, a small child appears in their midst holding a feather she found on the grass and wants to share in her discovery. So what’s a grown-up to do? The problems of the world will just have to wait their turn, because a child found a bird’s feather and the conversation naturally turns to birds, and to God who created them.
One time at a store, a boy with special needs was intently looking at me. He was with his mom and I was pushing my cart to his direction. The moment our eyes met, he said with a big smile, “How are you?” And in response, although a bit startled, I said, “I’m fine. Thank you!” Beside him was his mom saying smiling too.
His smile was the constant thing I carried through the day. His smile set me to whatever chores were lined up for me and on until the evening. That smile put a smile on my face till it was time to call it a day.
How often do we ignore those “special children?’ I think they are telling us that “Hey, life is good. You are a child of God. I am a child of God. Let us all be joyful!”
A very enlightening article. Thank you
In my 45 years of teaching I have been taught by the children in my care to be free and without fear. I have learnt to listen with the heart and find the wonder in being! Thank you for reminding me what children teach us.
Thank you so much. If only we as adults could allow ourselves to BE once again the child we were allowed to be! Again thank you for sharing your gifts with us!
Vinita. Thanks for a timely meditation. I’m a graduating Anti-Gravity Class member in Ayala Alabang Manila. Today Saturday at 12:30 six 16+ year olds are presenting their graduation recital. I now realize why World Youth Day was so close to Saint Pope John Paul. I sense Jesus’s presence in these young people. And they make HIM come alive for me and for the other classmates in the Anti-Gravity Class. It’s Like an AG Emmaus walk with Jesus in our midst. Somehow I feel my heart burning. Seeing Him at work in this simple recital. By the way I’m 72. Found all 6 ways of Finding God in this AG Yoga class. Prayer is really a long hard look at the Real.
Larry, thanks so much for sharing your story with us! You are a wonderful example of a life enhanced by intergenerational relationships. Peace to you.
Amen. Thank you for this reflection
Amazing! Absolutely amazing points that I need to remember as a father, educator and catechist because I am around children all the time. Thank you! Amen.