July 31, 2015

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Know God loves you, and share that love with others

Sean GallagherI recently celebrated my 45th birthday, although I’m not sure if “celebrate” is the word for it. I’ve definitely started to feel my age over the past few years as my joints have started to creak and groan. My hair has been turning gray for nearly 20 years now, so that’s nothing new.

I still get referred to as a “young man” by people in my parents’ generation. But I’m also coming to know young married couples and parents who are just starting down a path that my wife Cindy and I started on nearly 15 years ago. And there have been a few times when I’ve taken my younger sons grocery shopping and I’ve been asked by fellow shoppers if they’re my grandchildren.

Noticing the passage of time in these incremental ways came in a rush on a recent Sunday. My family and I were visiting my parents in Shelbyville, and they asked Cindy and me if we were interested in taking some things that they were wanting to get rid of.

One of the items was a posed family photo of Cindy, myself and our sons Michael, Raphael and Victor. It seemed to have been taken about seven years ago since Philip, who is now 6, is not in the photo. Seeing how small our three oldest sons were then compared to how much they’ve grown in the interim was a shock.

The photo was also a dramatic reminder of just how much love Cindy and I have for our boys, and how that love has only grown over time.

That photo now sits atop our upright piano in our living room. I’ve come to see that my initial reaction to it shows both how a parent’s love for his or her children is similar to God’s love for us, and yet how God’s love for us transcends anything that we can imagine on the human level.

Seeing at one and the same time how my three oldest sons looked seven years ago and how they are so different (with a good bit of similarities thrown in) today helped me realize in some small way how God in eternity sees our whole life in a moment and loves us infinitely through all of it.

God, in his infinite goodness, has drawn parents into his boundless love for us and allowed us to shower some of that love on our children. What a tremendous blessing for families filled with faith!

At the same time, glimpsing God’s infinite love for us through an intense experience of my love for my children also reminded me of how much my love as a father falls short of God’s love. On the one hand, that’s understandable. After all, God is God and I am not.

But I know all too well that God gives me the grace to love my boys much better than I ordinarily do from day to day. I know I can be more understanding of their shortcomings like God is of mine. I know I can show more interest in what captures their imagination and be less centered on my own priorities and pastimes, just as God loves us in all our smallness and particularity when he is greater than the whole universe.

We enter more deeply into God’s love for us and share it more effectively with our families and others when we allow our hearts and minds to be more consciously aware of the presence of that divine love in our daily lives and through the passage of time. †

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