Why does God give us children? He gives them to us to teach us to love Him.
The problem for us is that loving God benefits us more than it benefits Him. He gave us life. We can’t give Him that. He can give us eternal life. We can’t give Him that. We will never be able to love God the way He loves us. It is always an unequal exchange.
But He wants us to be able to do that. And so He gives us children, so that we can learn to love the way He loves. And He starts so gently with us, doesn’t He?
When children are infants, we are asked to love them by caring for their physical needs and we learn to deny ourselves sleep and convenience, in order to gradually allow these little children, who can’t even talk, to enter our world. We are all selfish, and babies start to chip away at that selfishness on a physical level. God is so kind to us. He makes babies super cute and cuddly and He even gives us hormones to help us love this little one! He starts us out easily.
Then, as kids get older, we learn to love them by controlling our emotions and tempers. We still are in charge of our kids, for the most part, we are making all the choices and creating the environment for them. But sometimes they embarrass us in the store or say unexpected things, or make a mess at someone’s house. They start intruding into our lives more than before. Our homes change to accommodate them, our schedule changes, and we start making time for THEIR activities. Our selfishness is chipped away a bit more now and we have to give more of our time and energy, even more than we did when they were infants.
Then kids hit the teen years and they exercise their independence, as they should, and all of a sudden we are called to love them on a new level. We need to love them by letting them go. By giving them freedom. Freedom to choose good or to choose evil. Darn, that free will! But isn’t this what God does with us? He gives us this great gift of children, so we can learn to love Him.
It’s a scary thing to love our children so much and watch them walk away from us or grow distant from us as they become teens. We don’t get those comments any more like, “Mommy you’re so pretty” or “Daddy, play with me!” Now we get scowls, blank stare, silent car rides. We are now being called to love without getting anything in return. It’s a new level of love and devotion to children who is making their own choices, becoming independent, and may even be separating themselves from you. You don’t have the feedback and positive reinforcement from them you got when they were young. But you are still called to love.
And paradoxically, the way we most learn to love as our Heavenly Father loves is when our children rebel and even sin against us. If you can continue to communicate to them that they were created good, that you delight in them, that they will always be your beloved son or daughter… if we can communicate that truth to them even in the moments when they think they hate us or what we stand for, then we are truly loving as God loves.
What if you have adult children who are living according to the path you have shown them? The heartache is still there because you have to let them go. You will always love them far more than they realize, and that can be hard to take. It’s is always an unequal exchange.
But that is how we learn to love God the way He loves us. When we love our children, we are able to love as God loves us. God gives us that chance!
God gives us our children to teach us how to love, and He also gives us an example of how to love. He has given us His Son, Jesus and the best example of how to love is the life of Christ Himself. He changed His life for us: by His death, He completely poured out of His life for us.
Our children do not exist for us. We exist for them. The purpose of their lives is not to be our children, but the purpose of our lives is to be their parent. That is our vocation. They do not become holy by being our children. But we can become holy by being their parents.
What a wonderful purpose children have!
For some more reflections on the purpose of children, check out the podcast below.