“…God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
– 1 John 4:16b
Marjorie Thompson shares this story in her classic book Soul Feast:
“A protestant pastor returned from a visit to a monastery. He confessed to his son that he did not understand how the monks could sit for hours in the chapel before the Revered Host (consecrated bread that represents the presence of Christ). His son, whose wife had just given birth to their first child responded, ‘You know Dad, I think I understand. Since our newborn arrived, I just go to her crib and look at her. She doesn’t have to do a thing, she doesn’t even have to be awake. I am so utterly fascinated that I don’t know where the time goes.’” (Soul Feast: an Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, page 48).
I remember doing that. I would walk into my son Asher’s room when he was a newborn, sit in the rocking chair and listen to him breathe. It rocked my world. Those were the moments when I realized that becoming a parent changes everything. I thanked God for those moments.
I was once at a pub before Asher was born with a few other pastors talking about life and God and stuff. Then the conversation shifted to parenting. These folks offered stories and general wisdom that I will never forget. But one comment struck me deeper than the others. One gentleman reflected that he would rather die 100 times over than see any deep pain, or even worse, happen to his children.
That, I thought to myself, is an incredible love. I was worried that I would never embody the same kind of love.
It’s like TV shows, or movies. I love a good story and will get hooked in a big way to a narrative that enthralls me. Whenever a child is involved in the story, particularly in a negative way, it affects me significantly. It terrifies by tempting me to imagine that these horrible things could happen to my child. My heart sinks, and I remember the conversation at the pub, and I think to myself that I would rather die 100 times over.
Being a parent changes everything. When parents love, it is beyond a simple communication of the words ‘I love you.’ It carries more depth than making sandwiches and driving to soccer practice. It becomes a full embodiment of participation and presence. It is an act of communion with the children whom God has blessed us. Parents become part of a grand narrative of love, one in which we are ordained and empowered by God to participate.
Communion transcends, as Thompson calls it, the ‘particularities of communication.’ There is a deeper love present even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
It’s why we survive the horribly frustrating days when we are exhausted from life and our kids don’t listen. A parent’s love is part of something bigger. It is not a full communion unless we facilitate the presence of God. This, practicing parents, is why participating and being present with our children is important. Be present. Don’t revel in unimportant disconnection offered by a majority of relationship-hindering practices.
We love our kids. That’s the way it is and hopefully that is the way it always will be. Our love for our children mimics that which we are loved from the God of love. Hopefully our love will be expressed in deep communion with our children. It’s why we hurt when our children hurt, and feel disappointment when our children are disappointed. We are bound together in the deep empathy of communion.
Our communion with our children is a ministry in and of itself as we orient ourselves and our children to the grand love of God. Communion is more than the recognition that the God of love is present and participating. Communion is being present with God. This is why we pray, read stories, make stuff, be in community, learn, and be present with one another. We need to teach and empower our children commune, to participate, through spiritual practice, with a God who is and always will be lovingly present.