Toddler Watching

Every day, I watch my 20 month old son climbing — onto the rocking horse, onto the sofa, or up the stairs. However, when his little fists are filled with toys — a little car or its driver — he can’t climb successfully and sometimes he actually falls because he can’t get a proper grip with his hands full. I’ve seen my husband or my other children try to persuade him to put down his toys or offer to hold them for him until he gets where he’s going, but his response is always the same. He won’t let go. He doesn’t understand that he’ll never get where he’s trying to go, and he actually might get hurt, unless he lets go of his toys.

As I sit and watch this scene play out again and again, I can’t help thinking how often we adults do the same thing. God wants sanctity for all of us. He wants us to soar with the saints. And we struggle so hard to cooperate with Him in this effort. But how often do we fail to soar, or actually fall ignominiously to the ground, because we won’t let go — of our fears, our worries, our guilt, our addictions, our desire for material goods, our attachment to unhealthy relationships, our obsession with technology! How often God would gently tell us, if we would listen in the silence of our hearts, that if we let go of these things, then we would be free. Then we would truly be happy. We would have time to think and pray by ourselves, to talk or play with our children, to sing.

Christ told us that to be perfect, we should sell all that we have and give to the poor. Those of us living in the world, alas, cannot follow this advice literally. We need to have cars and phones and washing machines to function in our society. We have to buy toys and books for our children. Yet we must strive to detach ourselves from these things, to be in the world but not of it.

We must be aware of world news without becoming obsessed and depressed over it. We have to budget wisely but also put aside our fears about money and allow ourselves to be generous — giving to the needy and possibly even be open to having another child in our own household. We must be polite to others but at the same time, detach ourselves from relationships that hurt us, people who lead us into gossip or impure jokes or negative thinking about ourselves or others. We need to wean ourselves from all addictions, not just alcohol or drugs, but from anything we’re addicted to, such as the television, the internet, video games, junk food, ipods. Anything that distracts us from spending time with God in prayer or with our families in wholesome activities needs to be reevaluated and limited. Most of us would be pleasantly surprised at how refreshing simple fun can be. We might be surprised that if we let go the things that we clutch most tightly, we will experience freedom and joy beyond anything we’ve ever known.

Like my little toddler, we are so afraid to let go. We are afraid to let go of our attachment to worldly goods and concerns — so afraid to surrender ourselves, untrammeled, to God. And yet, did not Our Lord tell us that he who dies to himself will have eternal life?

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