July 31, 2020

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Parents are blessed by entering into the innocent joy of their children

Sean GallagherMy family’s home on the east side of Indianapolis probably wouldn’t be a draw for those who love the great outdoors.

Located in a fairly old neighborhood, the homes are built close together. There are some nice trees there, including a giant pin oak in our front yard. But, for the most part, the natural beauty of our home is a far cry from rural Bartholomew County where we lived previously.

That doesn’t keep my 11-year-old son Philip from soaking in the beauty of God’s creation available to him. He has a love for the many squirrels who populate our small lot. (Our oak tree, with the many small acorns it produces, is a squirrel’s Walmart.)

He also has a great interest in the birds who visit the feeders we have in our backyard, even though there isn’t a great variety of them. We probably see more of a variety of birds in an hour at my in-laws’ rural Decatur County home than we do in a week in our yard.

But seeing Philip’s joy in watching the birds and squirrels—and chasing the latter away when they raid our bird feeders—makes up for anything lacking in the natural beauty around our home.

I enjoy refilling the feeders with him, hearing the latest stories of the birds he’s observed, and seeing his excited reaction when I call him to a window to see an unusual feathered visitor.

He was especially thrilled during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown in the spring when a couple of blue jays visited our home for a few weeks. Philip was so enthused to see them on our feeders and to hear their distinctive, hawk-like call.

He has an innocent love of God’s good gifts to us that surely pleases our heavenly Father. Philip hasn’t yet developed a cynical indifference to life’s simple pleasures that sometimes infects adolescents and adults.

May God help him hold on to this youthful enthusiasm as he grows into his teenage years. For my part, I hope to encourage it in Philip by continuing to show interest in this wholesome pastime of his.

Entering into the innocent joy of our children can be a blessing for us parents, too. It can draw us out of a pride-filled reticence to rejoice in the beauty of the world around us and renew in us a humble openness to the great gift God has given us in creation—even in the simplest sparrow or squirrel.

Maybe this youthful attitude toward life is part of what our Lord was teaching us when he said that “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Lk 18:17).

God’s kingdom breaks into our world here and now in part through the beauty of his creation. And we enter into this kingdom when we receive its beauty from God like little children bubbling over with joy upon opening a simple birthday gift.

We parents can often be weighed down by the many little and sometimes big concerns of caring for our families in our daily lives.

As important as fulfilling our duties to our families is, don’t let those tasks blind you to the beauty of God’s creation that surrounds you. Allow your children and their innocent enthusiasm in life’s simple pleasures to lead you into the boundless joy of God’s kingdom. †

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