Earlier this month the Church celebrated the feast of the Guardian Angels. When was the first time you heard about Angels? I’m wiling to bet it was as a child. Perhaps the Guardian Angel prayer was the first prayer you learned. Or it was a story you told the child in your life when giving them that image of the angel guarding the child crossing the bridge.
Guardian angels are easily believed as a child. We accept it. But as the feast crossed our calendars, I asked myself, “When is the last time I recalled this reality and prayed to my Guardian Angel?” I wasn’t sure of the answer. I then asked myself why. I wondered if it was because as I advance in age, and furthered my studies, these cutesy things about the invisible become less interesting to us. Maybe we even begin to dismiss such realities as childish.
Yet, Jesus so often in the gospels held up the example of a child to his listeners. He even taught that unless we have faith like a child, we will not enter the kingdom of God. Reflecting on the angels and childlike faith made me recommit myself to having the faith of a child. But what does that mean?
Here are a few of my own reflections on what a child can teach us about our relationship with God.
1. Children are Impressionable
Children are impressionable. They readily believe stories we tell them, be they true tales or fables. A little child readily accepts and believes, instead of doubting and challenging the story.
When I was a boy, I was impressionable. There was a lady from my home parish who had a devotion to Our Lady and Marian pilgrimages. She organized pilgrimages throughout the world. When she would share stories with us about Mary’s apparitions, I had no reason to doubt. I accepted them as true, and if they were in fact true, it told me God was real, He existed, and I better please Him every moment of every day.
Those stories made an impression on me. So far in my life I have visited 9 sites of Marian apparitions, 10 if you count apparitions of Jesus. I’ve visited Lourdes three times. I write books about Mary, I promote Marian devotion and study. All because as a little child I accepted the stories I learned about Fatima, Lourdes, and other places.
In our own faith life, be impressionable. When someone tells you a story about God at work in their life, don’t dismiss it. Believe it to be true. A book I recently read was filled with story after story about how God worked in the lives of people. At times I wanted to dismiss it as false, but I realized, why do that, it has to be true, why would they lie? Be impressionable. Accept stories about God with the faith of a child.
2. A Child is Dependent for All that They Have
Everything a child has, they have received from someone else. They are dependent upon others for their very livelihood. They believe when they are hungry, that one of their parents will prepare or provide a meal for them. When their clothes are tattered, they believe their parents will buy them new clothes.
In our relationship with God, we are dependent upon God for all that we have. We are dependent upon God for the blessings and graces that he bestows upon us. We are reminded that every breath we take is a gift from God. Be mindful of how God is providing for you every day. After all, before the Father, we are His child.
3. A Child Knows Who to Run To
Whenever a child is in trouble, they know to whom they should run. If they fall down outside, they know who will bandage their wound. If they are being picked on at school, they know to run to a teacher. Whenever there is trouble they know they can run to their mother, father, brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or someone else.
So too in our spiritual life. Whenever a tragedy strikes: sickness, death, whatever it might be, we know to whom we should run: God our Father; Jesus our brother; Mary our Mother, the Saints who are our friends and intercessors. When trouble befalls us, run for supernatural help!
4. Delight in Small Things
A child often takes joy in the small and simple things of life. And as we witness their joy, we cannot help but be elated ourselves. Maybe a child can teach us to delight in the small little gifts that God gives us. To slow down and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. If we only look for the big things, we will miss the small opportunities for joy and thanksgiving.
5. Be Quick to Forgive and Forget
A child quickly forgives and forgets. If they fought with their brother or sister earlier in the day, by day’s end they are reconciled and playing together again. They don’t hold on to hurt or pain, but quickly forget and move on. A parent told me that this was her experience. That if she gets upset and yells when the child misbehaves, after she apologizes, the child doesn’t hold it over her. He moves on from that experience. In our own lives, is there someone we need to forgive? Are we holding a grudge? With a child’s faith, be quick to forgive and forget.
Jesus rightly holds up the example of a child for us. They have a lot to teach us about our relationship with God and others. We are blessed to have children in our lives, whether they are your own, your grandchildren, nieces or nephew, or even the neighbor’s kids. Be attentive to future interactions, and ask the question: What is this child teaching me about my relationship with God? The answer might surprise you.