“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:14)
I think what I love most about summer is how close I am to the threshold of heaven.
It isn’t the extra prayer time, or the time spent outside in the glory of God’s creation, or even the extra sacrifices demanded by a household that has stepped away from the routine of the school year.
It’s the souls that run around on tiny bare feet. The innocent smiles that elicit pure joy, free from judgement or preconceived notions. The young minds that are still connected to hearts, as yet unjaded by the world.
Jesus tells us it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs. It is to such as these that the secrets of life — of truly living — are revealed. It is to such as these that Jesus opens His arms wide, knowing that they will run to Him without hesitation.
In the midst of trying to teach them and form them, I have to remember to stop — and let them form me.
On a recent vacation, all required summer reading, math tutoring, piano practice, and formal moral teaching was set aside. And I stepped into my classroom.
I watched as my 5-year-old daughter became “best friends” with our cabin hosts’ daughter within an hour of meeting her. They gleefully embraced the simple pleasures of life together, seeing who could swing higher into the twilight horizon, slurping up rapidly melting popsicles, and giggling at their made-up rules for tag and bicycle races. And as I watched, I found myself visiting more easily with our cabin hosts, imitating our daughters’ assumption that all people hold an inherent goodness, and that friendships are worth creating, even if you aren’t sure how long someone will be in your life.
I learned that stairs are meant to be climbed. My 18-month-old was undaunted by the baby gate we put at the base of the steep stairs that rose to the loft in our cabin. We all watched in amazement as she grunted and pulled her way up and over the gate for the first time, determined to conquer her obstacle. How often do I allow seemingly insurmountable obstacles smother the whisper of a personal dream in my ear? How often does the sight of a steep flight of stairs bring fear or despair rather than inspiration and determination? As my little one smiled triumphantly from the other side of her obstacle, I vowed to listen more carefully to the desires God places on my heart–and trust that He will help me fulfill them.
Independence Day was yet another late night on our vacation, and as fireworks lit up the sky, my 7-year-old son’s fuse had come to the end. He was tired, he was angry, he was yelling, and he finally walked off to the other side of the park to be alone and cool down. My husband finally persuaded my son to sit with him to watch the biggest fireworks. Sometimes, just when we feel we can’t handle anything else, we just have to accept the closeness and sympathy of a loved one who will help us stick around long enough to see the biggest and most brilliant surprises that life has to offer.
The rest of our vacation blurred into days filled with the joy of the work of preparing and cleaning up after meals, soaking up the freedom of summer nights and flexible bed times, and the closeness that only a tiny cabin and a big family can provide. I listened happily to the sounds of our children playing together, whispering and giggling in the darkness of the night time cabin together, and even working out arguments and disagreements together.
I tucked away each of their lessons for me. This is the slowing down of summer, and my children are the gatekeepers of heaven. I can only hope that they will continue to show me how to get to that place where they belong.
Copyright 2018 Charisse Tierney