“Dad, did I tell you what Shelly did at school today?” my daughter asked as she hopped into the car after school.
“No, what?” I replied, only half interested as I looked down at my phone to check the time. We were already running late for dance practice.
“It was amazing!” she exclaimed, “She wore the cutest dress, and I couldn’t believe what she did with her hair! It was this crazy shade of red, and she had a…ribbon…laughing…so crazy…, don’t you think Dad?”
I had zoned out, transforming my daughter’s voice into a series of semi-intelligible noises not unlike those of the adult voices in the old Peanuts cartoons. She continued on, and launched into another series of explanations as I pulled out of the parking lot. Then, before I realized it, we were at the dance studio and she yelled, “Thanks Dad!” as she hopped out of the car and ran off.
I woke from my introspective daze and turned to watch her go. As my mental fog cleared, I watched her move along the sidewalk, meeting up with friends, smiling, chatting and hugging. I reflected on how much she has grown and developed into such a wonderful young lady. I sighed and thought,
“Where has the time gone?”
Well, the answer is simple: time moves constantly forward in all of our lives; however, we may not be present for much of it. I was listening to Brene’ Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, during one of my long commutes to work, and one of her ideas spoke deeply to me. She asked the reader to consider time with our children as sacred moments, gifts from God, instruments of His grace in our lives. She challenged that if we could think about these moments, even banal moments of non-stop kid blather, as sacred gifts from God, we would hold them differently and may find ourselves more intent and present with our children, and with God.
I was mentally impaled by this idea, as it immediately meshed with something my spiritual director challenged me with days before. I had complained to him about how I never seem to have quality time with my daughter, nor quality time with God as I am so busy and distracted. He asked if it were possible for me, as I watch my daughter do her homework, or skip off to dance practice, or tell me a story about her friends, to see the face of Jesus as I look into her eyes, and catch her smile. He asked if I could simultaneously rest in the presence of my daughter and my God, by seeing God in my daughter as His gift to me.
The Anglican Book of Common Prayer describes sacrament, as “…an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us ordained by Christ himself….” I like this definition, and wonder if it speaks to how time with our children can be sacred and have the characteristics of a sacrament, specifically:
- If we seek Jesus in our relationship with our children, our children’s actions, and presence within our lives, it can awaken an awareness of God’s grace;
- Realization of our children as gifts from God can reveal an inner grace ordained by Christ, set in our hearts; and
- When we see these visible signs, and experience His wonderful grace and gift, we open an amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse of how God sees us.
I believe that many parents experience these sacred moments, but are not aware they are sacred. We watch our kids and have sudden realizations that they have grown, matured, healed, accomplished, etc., but we don’t become aware of the connection to God. We may thank Him, but we may not seek Him in those moments. Now, when my daughter is hurt and comes to me for advice, or is ecstatic about a new pair of shoes, or is angry because…well, because she is just angry…I accept the moment as sacred, seek Jesus right there, and connect with Him through her.
These two ideas, the sacredness of my time with my daughter, and the opportunity to experience God via my daughter, are connected in my relationship with God. I may become aware through the common monotony of a typical exchange with my daughter that the very moment was provided to me by God as a gift, to see His face, to rest in His grace, and to connect with Him through the important gift that He gave to me as an earthly father via my child. Therefore, through these sacred moments, God helps me realize that the sacred time with my daughter, experiencing her love, exemplifies a mere fraction of His love for me.