Monday, February 23, 2015

Is the World a Jungle or a Home?

1 comment :
Roughly a year ago a wise religious sister shared with me a profound truth, “either one receives the world, and life itself, as a gift and therefore perceives one’s surroundings as a hospitable home or the world is simply experienced as a harsh jungle threatening one’s life constantly.”
Her words came back to me recently as I was watching my toddler son explore our kitchen. In the span of 45 seconds, he bonked his head twice and was sent reeling backward onto his posterior. Clearly our kitchen was a jungle for him. Then, before bedtime, that same son bent over to pick up a toy only to unexpectedly hit the corner of the bed with his head causing him to fall backward and land on the carpet. The bedroom proved itself to be no less than the Amazon.

So how do I communicate to my children that ‘there is more than meets the eye’ when it comes to their experience of the school of hard knocks? I think it has to do with an exchange I just had with my older, three-year-old son.

This photo by the Montgomery County Planning
Commission is licensed under 
C.C. by 2.0.
Unbeknownst to him, Grandma had mailed him a picture book about hook and ladder fire engines. So I told him Grandma had sent him a surprise and that he should close his eyes and hold out his hands to receive it. After two or three more repeat instructions he trusted and did it. When he opened his eyes, he discovered the fantastic gift and was thrilled with it.  He was genuinely delighted with the book and kept asking me, “What is a surprise?” I found his question endearing, and this experience of surprise was an irreplaceable moment for him. In his innocence, surprise is 
now synonymous with a good thing given by a loved one who knows one’s preferences. 

The next morning, as we were walking down the stairs, he looked out the window and saw a slight dusting of snow and immediately exclaimed, “it snowed! Thank you Jesus!” Clearly for him this experience demonstrated that the “world is a home.”

Perhaps this is the punch line of Christian parenting? I must form my children to know through personal experience, not just lecture or conceptually, that life is full of goodness, providence and being intimately known. Inevitably, when their innocence is worn down and the struggles of life (see Genesis 3; i.e. labor pains, thorns, thistles and sweat) have mounded up, they can then enter the philosophical fray and concur that creation is very good and given to humanity to till and keep; all in anticipation of the Master’s return when He will invite His faithful servants to reside with Him in His Father’s house.             

I’m truly beginning to discover that being “like a child” (Mt 18:3) as an adult necessitates me being physically, emotionally and spiritually present to the children in my life (primarily my sons) so that when they oscillate between “jungle” and “home” experiences of the world, I relearn the lesson too and revisit my ultimate conclusion about life. Namely, that the world is an awe-inspiring gift, and if I have the eyes, ears and heart to receive it, I will become like a child trusting his father that the next thing placed in his hands will be an unexpected delight.

Life isn't a perpetual pop quiz that we dread because we have never understood the material. Life is a surprise mailing of a hook and ladder fire engine book that you love so much that you take it with you to nap time so that it fills your dreams.     

1 comment :

  1. This reminds me of a GK Chesterton quote I love (paraphrasing...) about how the world is both a castle to be stormed and our cottage to return to every day. A place for adventures...and our home.


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