There’s something very special about little children. Particularly if they’re your own, or, even better, godchildren or grandchildren. The way the hand gets stretched out towards you: “Sam!/Beth, Grandma, Grandpa: Look at me! Let’s explore! Why?” In that brief second of time, all the cares you may be carrying slip away and all that matters is that encounter. The trust, the love, the delight.
The gift a child brings. An honest gift presented without the giver even realizing what is happening.
Yesterday a small group of us gathered outside to have our pets blessed, and later we joined other dog owners in the leash-free park outside. Got to know the dogs, and the owners, heard the stories, felt the connection. What had brought us together? Our pets. All dog, and cat owners know about unconditional love – it’s what they are given every time they come in through the front door. It’s a gift that’s unconditional: all we have to do is provide our four-footed companions the care and attention they deserve.
During the morning a couple shared their experience of driving back the night before from Muskoka. A meteor shower. One so intense it looked like an unmoving, white Northern Lights. The unexpectedness of the experience.
Take a moment.
- Stop reading.
- Take a deep breath, exhale.
- Open yourself up.
What comes to mind?
Like the small child reaching out its hand, these experiences are heart-given, like our pets, they are unconditional, like the wonder of nature: unexpected. In their unexpectedness, their joy, their honesty, they flip our mood around, transform the moment. They stay with us, they resonate within us.
None of them have anything remotely to do with material possessions (with the possible exception of having an engagement ring presented to you), yet they have an extraordinary staying power. They can even shift how we see things, how we prioritize, and on what we base our fundamental values.
Seeing the first ultrasound images of the baby growing inside you changes you, or feeling it’s heart beating next to yours as your little one is handed to you for the first time and you hold it in your arms. You realize: this is it. Nothing else matters quite so much. You are now a parent. The years of “me”, of “it’s just the two of us so we can vacation, spend, go out, have gone, the first priority is now your family.
Please, this isn’t meant to be an artificial, Sound of Music, sugary reading of life. You know that, because you’ve been there. Each of us can recall at least one of these moments.
They are all gifts, gifts of grace. Unexpected offerings that open the eyes of our heart and soul to a new way of being. They are presented to us by the Creator, the one who breathes life into us, into the world around us. These are the experiences that bring colour to our lives, that enrich us beyond the temporary excitement of material possessions, they are life-giving.
Recalling these experiences evokes emotion within us. We experience what we felt at the time, sometimes even magnified as we begin to grasp their immensity. They are what we are given to be a part of who we are, to help us see the bigger picture when we feel overwhelmed, to straighten our backs and release our shoulders when we feel the weight of the world pressing down on us, to propel us forward when we are lost.
In these moments of wonder, of joy, of being overawed, we encounter God reaching down to us, to caress our souls with her presence. Inviting us, gently, into a new perspective on life. The one that Jesus speaks of: that transcends the ephemeral, that sweeps us up into a gigantic, never-ending vista. One based simply on deep, giving love.
You know what it’s like when you are truly loved:
something inside you is freed up and you can begin to become who you truly are. You can love, and be loved and that means, you can give yourself permission to become vulnerable. And once you learn to become vulnerable, you acquire the gift of compassion, the ability to stand alongside another human being during the challenging times of their life. And to this mix, to this gift of being able to relax into who you are and focus on the other comes the gift of joy.
This is so very rich.
This is so very important.
It changes you. And as you are changed, the world of which you are part is changed.
So, take a moment to be still, evoke the memory of that time, andgive thanks. From the bottom of your heart. To pray that the inspiration of that time continues to change you, us all into the image of God that is already right here, within us.
The Lord is near. Right here. Right now.