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Childlikeness Before God

Our individual spiritual journeys are varied and interesting. I wonder if we were all to
reflect and share, if we might find themes running through them. Recently I was invited
to speak at a womens conference and I was asked to share my spiritual journey. I looked
back through the years of my spiritual growth and, as I am sure it is for many of you, so
much was there. Its hard to pick out just one theme to talk or write about. But it was a
great exercise!
I looked back at that younger me being brought up as a faithful Christmas-Easter
Catholic. I looked back at marrying my high school sweetheart who before our growth in
the faith said to me, I know God exists, but I dont think he has anything to do with us.
And that didnt bother me! I married him anyway! I looked back at the young married
couple we were who only wanted 2 kids and who would wake up on Sunday mornings
saying, Do you feel like going to church? I dont know. Do you feel like going?
And then I look at that same couple today, parents of nine children, a couple who tries
daily to live in a covenantal relationship with a loving Father, a couple who is actively
seeking holiness everyday as we lead our family heavenwards. I tried to pick out for me
personally, just what was it that moved me along that spiritual path?
I came up with a lot of answers! And then I started to narrow it down and it
finally all came together. My spiritual journey has been all about developing my
childlikeness before God. If I have learned anything over these years of my life, it is to
be a little child in the arms of my Father.
My mind flashes back to a moment, an ordinary moment in my life, but one that
has been a vivid memory for me. My toddler was climbing over seats to get out of the
van. Standing at the door, I was waiting to help her to help her down, but I was also
distracted by the other kids running around. I looked up just in time to see my precious
baby diving into arms that I had yet to bring up to catch her. I did catch her. And as I
did, it hit me. My relationship with God is illustrated by my childs movement. I am that
little child who is learning to just dive into my Fathers arms and trust, with that trust that
only a toddler has, that my father is going to catch me. Every time. At that time in my
life, you see, my husband and I were attempting to master the ins and outs of Natural

Family Planning. We werent very successful at it! It takes a lot of self-control. From
about 1995 until 2001, I was either pregnant or nursing a baby. The only way we knew
that my fertility returned was that we got pregnant again! It was a beautiful time, a joyful
time, a physically and emotionally hard time, but a graced time when I learned to be that
little child diving right into the arms of my Father and trusting that He was always going
to catch me.
Being a child before God means accepting my weakness, my smallness. I know
that through my weakness I make Gods fatherhood possible. When I think back to my
experience of my natural father, the only time he was able to be father was when I was a
little child, relying on him for everything. But then as I grew into adulthood, and became
independent, strong, sometimes stronger than him, my father was less able to be father to
me. He became merely a companion that I loved. Isnt that how it is in my relationship
with our Heavenly Father? When I am feeling strong, like I have everything in control, I
treat my heavenly Father as merely a companion whom I love. But when I am in full
knowledge of my weakness, I stand in front of our Heavenly Father as a little child,
crying over this or that difficult situation in my life. Worried over this fault or that one, I
turn and beg him for his help, his guidance, his grace. And I have found in my life, he
always answers. Probably not like I imagine the answer, but he always does. Because he
is Father and he is only waiting for me to turn to him and ask him for his help. So I have
learned to be more aware of my smallness, but know that Gods grace is what I depend
on.
Being childlike also means being open to the loving touch of the Father in my life.
Little children are enthralled with the beauty and natural wonders of their daily worlds. A
pillbug or a butterfly, a squirrel or the moon. All these natural wonders speak of God and
whisper to their soul how much He loves them. Through my adult eyes, which have seen
many pillbugs, many butterflies, many squirrels and many moons, I have learned to look
in different places for the Hand of the Father. The gifts from my Father in Heaven are no
less numerous to me if I have my spiritual antennae up, if I am looking for ways he is
gifting me throughout the day. It could be as simple as having a parking space by the
door open up if I am in a hurry. Or finding all the materials that I need for a craft on sale
that day. Or my child, crying in remorse because he just realized that he talked back to

me, and upon further discussion, I find out that watching his older siblings has prompted
him to promise himself to never talk back. Or my husband, who rarely talks about his
faith, while talking with our distressed daughter, brings up a faith angle that enables me
to see just how deeply and quietly he is living his faith. In all of these simple and
touching moments, I can sense the gifts from the Father.
But even in the hardships, I have learned to look for the hand of God. As we have
entered into the more mature world of parenting adults in the last six years, we have
already started on hardships I never even imagined when they were babies. Two years
ago, it was evident to us that God was calling us to stop home schooling our three middle
children. We put them in public school and I have to say that was one of the most
emotional, gut-wrenching times of my life. I felt like I was throwing them into a lions
den. You must understand that I had been protecting them from this world for the
previous seven years and now I was encouraging them to be a part of it. As the year went
on, they would bring home words, ideas and elements of a more worldly view (and they
still do). But if I look closely enough, I can see the hand of God preparing them for the
future in ways that I was not capable of as a home schooling mother. I havent mastered
the habit, but I have learned to look for those daily wonders that show me that my Father
loves me and is taking care of me always.
There is another way that I feel my spiritual journey has reflected the ways of
childlikeness. If you are a mother, you know how little children gravitate toward you.
They seem to always want to be with you. My oldest daughter is experiencing that now
as she tells of trying to cook dinner with my granddaughter clinging to her leg. Oh, I
remember, I tell her, and there were times I had one on each leg! The clich of hiding
in the restroom is such a reality in our house. I change which one of the four bathrooms I
go to in order to throw them off track! I joke, but those little ones have a true yearning to
be with their mommy like my yearning to be with God. And unlike me, God isnt hiding
in the bathroom! Instead, God is inviting me to yearn for his presence. One of the graces
I have asked for and am still in the process of responding to is the longing to be in contact
with the living Father. In my life, I find this more deeply through the sacraments as I
mature, but I also can find this closeness frequently in prayer in our home shrine.
Through a movement my husband and I belong to (the Schoenstatt movement) we

erected a home shrine in our home and invited the Blessed Mother and her Son to come
and live in our home. I cannot imagine our home without our home shrine and their
supernatural presence. If you asked any of my family where the center of our home is,
they will tell you that its the home shrine. My yearning to be close to Jesus is fulfilled as
I sit early in the morning quietly in the home shrine, experiencing the gentle loving
presence of Jesus and Mary in our home and in my heart. Whats that saying? Out of
sight, out of mind? The physical reminder of the home shrine is what brings the presence
of God into my mind all day long.
As a family we bring everything there. If someone has a test, we pray there. We
place all the sonogram pictures there. My sons picture as he heads off to college. We go
to the home shrine in joywe celebrate our birthdays and sacraments in front of the
home shrine. Every special event picture of the children is there. Taking a family photo?
Where do we go to line up? The home shrine. Family prayer is there. Family
conferences are there. Sibling discussions are sent there. I sit there often to write. My
familys spiritual life and mine has a concrete place in our home where we are filled up
and from where we go out into the world.
So as I looked back over my life, I saw that my spiritual growth is actually about
becoming more childlike. I have learned to trust as I take leaps of faith. He will catch
me. I have learned to look through my struggles and through little daily occurrences for
the hand of the Father. And I have learned that yearning to be close to the Father will be
answered by a loving presence. Now I look forward to the rest of this journey
heavenwards and hope that I can become more of a little girl who puts her hand into the
hand of her Father and trusts that where he leads is the best place to go. And as I do, I
pray:
You know the way for me.
You know the time.
Into your hands I trustingly place mine.
Your plan is perfect,
Born of perfect love
You know the way for me
That is enough.

-Father Joseph Kentenich, Heavenwards