April 26, 2013

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Time flies when you’re being obedient

Sean GallagherTime supposedly flies when you’re having fun.

That may be the case. But, according to my 5-year-old son Victor, time flies when you’re being obedient. That was the long and the short of what he’s told me from time to time when at bedtime I’ve asked him to come to the bathroom so I could brush his teeth.

He’ll come trotting back and want me to get done as quickly as I can so that he can get the last moments of play out of his day. But I guess that I’ve told him enough times that he’ll be able to go back to playing faster if he obeys me right away at teeth brushing time. So now he’ll sometimes say to me with a big smile on his face as he arrives in the bathroom, “How can we get done quickly? By obeying Daddy!”

I hope Victor holds on to this sentiment as he grows up. It’s not because I want things a bit easier for me—although that would be a nice side effect. But in these three short words, Victor has summed up the recipe for happiness in life.

As long as we’re doing the will of our heavenly Father—our ultimate Daddy—and embrace it with as much gusto as Victor welcomes teeth brushing time, then there’s nothing that can shake the peaceful happiness that God wants to plant firmly in our hearts.

The great medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri wrote in his Divine Comedy that “in his will,” that is, God’s will, “is our peace.”

I think we can all agree with Dante in theory. But when the rubber hits the road, we would probably tend to question his wisdom. How often is God’s will in our lives clear for us, and we simply don’t want to do it?

Being a dutiful spouse or parent can be hard when we’re tired, when it seems to us that too many demands are being made of us, or if we just want to do our own thing for a while. The difficulty of doing God’s will in the case of our state in life can become especially challenging, say, when we’re called out of love to care for a spouse or child who suffers from severe physical or developmental disabilities.

But Dante’s words—and those of Victor, too—are vindicated when we cooperate with God’s grace and allow all of its transforming power to shape a new understanding of peace and happiness in our hearts and minds.

This happens as we enter more and more into the life of grace—the very life of Jesus found in the Gospels that we embody by the power of God in our daily lives. When this happens, we’ll realize in a deeply profound and concrete way that happiness and peace come through giving of ourselves in loving service to others, not in grasping after power for ourselves, even if it might only be power over the use of time in our daily lives.

When in our daily lives we go against the inclinations of our whims and passions and make choices to advance the peace and happiness of other people around us, then the peace and happiness of God will grow in our hearts and reveal the world’s version of the same to be the cheap imitations that they are.

On the surface, it may seem to others that peace and happiness are far away from us since we may work long, hard hours in caring for our friends or loved ones. But if we, in the midst of this service, truly open ourselves to God’s grace, then we are living on a much higher plane than the two-dimensional existence that this world apart from God has to offer.

Who knew that such wisdom could come from a 5-year-old’s mouth? I pray that someday I can make Victor’s wisdom my own. †

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