April 25, 2008

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Be happy like a child playing in the waves

Sean GallagherEven within our own relatively small state of Indiana, we have a good deal of geographic variety.

There are the rolling wooded hills of the south, winding rivers that crisscross the state, miles and miles of farmland, and the lakes and sand dunes of the north.

But even with all of the grandeur that God has bestowed on us Hoosiers, it’s a good thing now and then for us to go beyond our borders to take in the glory of his creation that other states can provide.

My family did this recently with a trip to Pensacola, Fla. It was the first time that my young sons had been to the sea.

It especially made an impression on my nearly 6-year-old son, Michael, as he stood on the beach, saw the immensity of the Gulf of Mexico before him and heard the constant crashing of the waves against the shore.

He had an absolute blast playing in the tide as it ebbed and flowed around his legs and feet.

I, on the other hand, sat there a bit transfixed watching him fearlessly having so much fun with something so enormous and powerful, something that was entirely unknown to him just hours before.

Sometimes Michael would stand there slightly crouched with his eyes locked in on an incoming wave. And when it would hit him, he’d squeal with joy.

At other times, he’d be a little further back, just sitting up on the sand, blithely watching the foam of the last bit of a wave bubbling up around his legs.

Boston College philosophy professor and renowned Catholic author Peter Kreeft said that such a picture of a child playing in the surf is the best image of humanity’s place in the universe.

“[We’re] little children playing in the waves. Waves of life. Waves of energy. Waves of Providence. Waves of God-stuff. The stuff God is made of: beauty, truth, and goodness.”

Kreeft said a child playing in the waves reminds us that the universe is “a big toy.”

“When we become adults, we lose the knowledge that the universe is God’s toy to play in. And we lose the sense of being small and happy. Instead, we become large and worried. The surf can make us all children again, in two seconds if only we’d let it.”

In those times when I’m not so good as a father, I think that the tasks and duties I have to do around the house or at work are much more important than just playing with my sons.

Spending time with them at the shore made me feel like a kid with them. I played with Michael in the waves. He, Raphael, my 3-year-old son, and I made sand castles and sand churches together.

All of the “bigger” things that I thought were so important just seemed to wash away with the tide.

It’s my prayer for myself and for all fathers, especially those of young children, that this reminder of what is truly important that the sea provided for me will re-echo in my heart like the constant rolling of the waves.

Children know what’s really important. They know how to approach the world in a way that will make you truly happy.

They and all of us should be like little kids playing in the waves.

(To listen to Peter Kreeft’s reflection on the sea, log on to www.peterkreeft.com/audio/12_sea-spirituality.htm.) †

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