April 29, 2016

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

God is a patient father as we learn his lessons

Sean GallagherThe time after meals in my family’s home can be hectic. On the one hand, the boys, after sitting relatively still at the dinner table, are ready to run around and play rambunctiously like the boys that they are. On the other hand, there are after-meal chores to be done.

My wife, Cindy, and I want the boys to learn how to do them and, more broadly, how to give of themselves in service to others. It’s a difficult task to get them to do the chores when they instinctively want to scream and run around the house.

So it can take a while to get those chores done. Cindy and I could accomplish them more efficiently if we simply did them ourselves and let the boys play. But then they would miss out on an important lesson that we’re sure will pay dividends for them as they grow.

So we choose to deal with the frustration of having to bring the boys back again and again to their assigned chores—nicely organized on a chart on our refrigerator—when we notice that they’re getting off task and starting to horse around.

Sometimes, I think we spend more time bringing them back to their tasks than it takes the boys to complete them.

After-meal chore time is not just a chance for our boys to learn how to serve others by clearing off the table, rinsing off the dishes and sweeping the floor. It is also a time for Cindy and me to grow in patience. Sometimes, I think the boys learn their chores more effectively than I am growing in patience.

God is infinitely patient. He’s been trying to teach us, his children, how to serve others since the dawn of history. He calls us in the souls he’s given us to put others first. But, since Adam and Eve, we’ve been determined to ignore his voice and go our own way.

He sent us one prophet after another to lead us back to him, to help us to be more selfless and less selfish. They touched the hearts of some people, but many more rejected them. So God ultimately sent us his Son, Jesus Christ. In his teachings, miracles and most perfectly in the way he suffered, died and rose again for us, he showed us how human fulfillment is found not in self-seeking, but in giving oneself away out of love for God and others.

God could have chosen a more efficient way to instill this lesson in us. He could have made us like the rest of his creatures, lacking in the ability to sin. But that would have meant that we would have also lacked freedom.

And it would have meant that we wouldn’t have been made in his image and likeness, since God is wholly free. He created us and the entire universe in freedom. God does not need anything in the universe. He simply is, and he chose in freedom to create us and the universe because he has wanted to give of himself in love from all eternity.

He has remained patient with us across time and space as we have misused our freedom in selfish ways that ultimately contribute to our sadness and hardships.

Yes, we’re still trying to learn the lessons that God has been trying to teach us all along. Use each moment that God gives you in his patience to put his lessons into action. His grace is always there for the taking to help us learn for our good and the good of the world. †

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