September 29, 2017

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

God gives us freedom to become his adopted children

Sean GallagherThousands of years ago, the inspired author of the Psalms said that God found praise to foil his enemy “on the lips of children and of babes” (Ps 8:3).

In my 15 years as a parent of five boys, I’ve found these holy words confirmed many times, often humorously, as when my 4-year-old son Colin recently said, “I was a baby, but now I’m Colin.”

After chuckling, I asked him, “Was I a baby?” His answer? “You were a baby, but now you’re Daddy.” More laughs.

The amusement later turned contemplative. There’s some deep paradoxical meaning in what Colin said, even if he doesn’t know it at this point.

On the one hand, our own unique identities have existed in the mind of God from all eternity. So Colin was Colin even when he was a baby, and he’ll remain so throughout his life.

At the same time, God gave us freedom in making us in his image and likeness. We use this freedom to shape our identities in the choices we make each day. Colin was onto something when he said he was a baby, but now is Colin.

On this side of eternity, we cannot explain with complete satisfaction how to reconcile the infinite power and knowledge of God in creating each of us existing alongside the freedom he’s given us to shape ourselves through our choices.

Contemplating God’s providence can help us at least to begin to wrap our limited minds around this divine mystery.

Although each of us has a unique identity created by God, we’re bound together by the common vocation he’s created for all humanity: to become his adopted children in Christ Jesus and to be one with him forever in heaven.

This happens ultimately through choosing to accept God’s free gift of salvation, a choice we are to renew and deepen throughout our lives.

Other choices we make in this life can bring us closer to or take us farther away from this blessed calling that each of us desires deep inside, even if we can’t say so in so many words.

But even when we make choices that take us down paths far away from God, he’s always there in his providence to open up paths for us to return to him.

If through his merciful grace we are able through a series of choices to return to a close relationship with God, all the choices that took us away from him will still be part of our identity.

We parents and grandparents work with the grace God gives us in the sacrament of marriage to help our children and grandchildren to form their identities well through the choices they make in the often confusing time of childhood and adolescence.

Most, if not all, of my days as a parent see my boys making choices that make me cringe, angry, sad and sometimes tearful. Blessed—and rare—is the parent who is free from such days.

But our trust in God and the working of his providence can console us as we witness our children making these choices that we know are going to bring them—and often us—a little hardship.

In between those worrisome moments, we try to instill in our young ones through word and example Gospel principles, trusting that they’ll guide them well as they go from being babies to becoming fully the children of God that he created them to be.

And in helping them along the way to heaven, God will draw us closer to him at the same time. †

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