Just like C.S. Lewis, I was Surprised by Joy. Of course, there are certain serious Catholic bloggers who have a problem with my spirituality. Often traditional, Pre-Vatican ll prophets of doom, who religiously fast and recite prescribed set prayers for hours each day, take the exception to my childlike spirit of joy. Yet this path was not of my choosing. I craved the life of an intense regime of self-sacrifice as a consecrated, contemplative religious. When God called me to marriage and to be a mother, I really did feel like I was taking second best. Then, twenty years ago, a consecrated, lay contemplative who served in a listening house, said to me, \”You really have been given the best of both worlds. You are married with children yet you are living the contemplative life.”
Her response still brings tears to my eyes. To live a childlike spirituality of joy is not easy for a modern day adult. I have been through decades of counselling and spiritual direction to allow Jesus to heal me, and save me from myself, my fears, and my ego. I have decades yet to travel through. There are tears in my eyes now, because so few understand the little way of surrender. It was my children who stripped me and formed my spirituality. Anne Lamont articulates my little way:
I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.
Some religious people would maintain that only an active adult Christian can act lovingly. Yet even Sacred Scriptures disagrees with this narrow view. St. Paul explains that God will judge everyone by how much truth God has revealed to them. If a tribe hidden in the jungle has never heard the gospel, God will judge based on what they know. St. Paul assures us that all men have the basic laws of God carved into their hearts. In modern language, we all have an awareness of good and evil or a conscience, even the smallest child.
The problem is tapping into and living out from my core where God has inscribed a moral code on my heart. It is hidden in my deepest self. Actually, if we can block out our own ego and selfishness, and simply stop and listen, even a child knows what is right and what is wrong. In my experience, children are capable of the highest moral action, acting purely from a heart full of love.
Thank God for Christ, because He offers even adults an easy way to love and to put that love into action. Relax. Give up striving. Surrender to His love and let it saturate every cell of your body. Then simply let His love flow through you. It ends up being a long journey to such carefree lifestyle, because pride and ego get in the way. It is so simple that it seems complicated to our adult, logical minds.
No wonder Jesus praises the child,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” [Matthew 19:14]
And in even stronger terms,
“I assure you,” He said, ‘unless you are converted and become like children, , you will never get into the kingdom from heaven…’” [Matthew 18:4]
A relationship to the living God is child’s play. Listen to this exchange between my young children.
One afternoon, I was making dinner, standing at the counter with my back to our three youngest children. Katie and Anthony were lounging around the kitchen table, with three-year-old Lucy perched like a little elf on a high stool, happily swinging her legs.
Simply making conversation, Katie, who was about eight yeard old, asked Lucy, “Lucy, whose your favorite, mum or dad?”
Still facing the counter, I looked over my shoulder and intruded on their conversation. “Smart answer, Lucy.”
Although, Lucy was not done, and responded, “But she’s not my real mum, Mary is.”
Katie rolled her eyes, slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand and said incredulously, “Where does she get this stuff?”
I tried to explain as simply as I could. “Well, the Holy Spirit is in her heart and she listens to His voice.”
Lucy jumped right back into the discussion and chanted in a sing-song, lilting voice. “That’s right. God the Father in my heart. Baby Jesus in my heart. Holy Spirit in my heart. Mother Mary in my heart…. but…. I still like mum and dad the best!”
Katie rolled her eyes and plunked her head down on the table with a loud sigh. “Where does she get this stuff?”
I just laughed.
A few weeks later, as I crouched down to tie Lucy’s shoelace, Lucy picked up the small gold cross I wore around my neck and said, “This is the cross of Jesus and the glory of God shines all around it.”
Katie rolled her eyes again, slapped her forehead and asked, “WHERE does she get this stuff?
She gets it right from the source of all truth. She is humble and little enough to remain open long enough to listen to the voice of God within her and to love Him in return. She is pure enough to love those around her with a child\’s devoted love, a love, in fact, that is worthy of a saint.
© 2014. Melanie Jean Juneau. All rights reserved.