Distinguishing the Giver and the Gifts
Childbirth is an awesome miracle to experience, and I remember vividly the birth of my two daughters (three and a half years apart). My husband and I were a young couple given the responsibility of caring for two perfect, precious beings with ten little fingers and ten little toes. They looked so peaceful when they slept in the hospital crib and so angry when they cried! When the nurse wrapped our first born and placed her in my arms to bring home a day and a half after the birth, I looked up at her with fearful eyes. I had no idea what to do with this child, but the nurse seemed to be under the false impression that I did. Fortunately it turned out that motherhood and fatherhood were innate. We couldn’t help but love and cherish these babies with every ounce of our being, and they became the center of our world.
Watching them grow was fun and exciting. I recall taking the girls as babies and toddlers to Church and gazing lovingly at them throughout the entire Mass, admittedly focusing way more on the children than we did on the words of the priest. They truly were gifts from God, and we simply could not get over the blessing and miracle. Every adorable gesture they made brought a smile to our faces. We loved, nurtured, nourished, educated, and spent quality time with them as all good parents do, to the point perhaps that they became little gods to us. We would do anything for them. Years later there were times we cried out in angst to God who gave them to us. How could He do this? How could He allow this? Where was He?
The Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises explains that “all the things in this world are gifts of God presented to us so that we can know God more easily . . . but if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.” It took me many years to realize that those words refer to all people, places, and things on this earth — including my children. How difficult it is for a mom to let go of her children and to cling to and trust in God. It was and remains the most difficult task of my life. I often think of Abraham’s trust in God as he placed Isaac on the altar. I have had to do that metaphorically many times with my daughters. The first time I screamed in anger at God. How dare He give me this gift and ask me to return it? I felt betrayed, and I absolutely lacked trust.
I am grateful for the reminder that the curses that I encounter can be blessings if I respond to these things in ways that will save my soul because it is for that purpose that I am here on this earth — “to praise, reverence, and serve God . . . and by means of this to save [my] soul.” Just as I should have focused on God during the Mass when my girls were babies, now too I must remember to turn my gaze towards God. My life, my soul, and my salvation rest upon the foundation of God — nothing and no one else.
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