Today’s Gospel is one of my favorites. It’s the one in which Jesus calls his disciples the “salt of the Earth” and the “light of the world.”
I’ve experienced many personal challenges in the last few years. In my darkness, I’ve always looked to my daughters as my light – my reason to push on and find meaning in life every day. Yet today, listening to our deacon’s sermon, in which he talked about how we all at one time or another are light for someone, I had one of those realizations of something I already knew. Just as my girls are light in my darkness, I am also light in theirs.
You’ve probably had someone in your life tell you to watch your behavior around children. If you spend significant time around kids, you know why. The world is not as comfortable place for them as it is for us adults. They look to those they trust to find how to act. How to respond to what surrounds them. But it’s more than that funny and awkward moment when a child repeats some profanity they’ve heard. It’s more than mimicking.
Children – particularly just before their Tweens – are better surveyors than the NSA. They’re watching your every move, and using those images to build templates for how to behave in the world. If your a parent, it’s a true test of your personality. No pressure, huh? I wish I could say its easy. But if you look closely enough, your children are a mirror into YOUR soul. And they will show you every way you need to grow and better who you are.
After my second daughter was born, I suffered from severe post-partum depression. I had a few episodes where I had meltdowns in front of both girls. These were always followed by heartfelt talks and emotional assurances of how much I loved them. They knew Mommy was sick, if they didn’t fully comprehend what that meant. Today, I am much recovered, thanks to lots of hard work. Yet I still see those days in my children’s eyes from time to time. Worse, when my youngest daughter errs in some way herself, she comes to me soon after to tell me what a wonderful mother I am and how much she loves me. Children learn when we aren’t looking.
None of us are perfect. From time to time the light we Catholics are supposed to provide for the world will flicker. We are all, after all sinners. For parents struggling to light the way for their children it’s important to remember that God created us flawed. We WILL sin in front of our children, and we WILL pass on to them the things about ourselves we’d rather not. I’m a sweet tooth. I try to curb myself. But my oldest daughter has never met a food she doesn’t like. I’m constantly steering her to exercise, which I personally avoid at all costs. My little one can battle wills with the best of them, thanks to her father’s talent at “debate.” Channelling that is a tough one.
Want to experience self actualization? Have a few kids and sit back and watch your habits, your idiosyncrasies and your talents come to life in their little hands. My daughters never met my father-in-law, but my oldest will line a pile of M&M’s up on a table in order of color and eat them in groups as he did. We are who and what we are.
So what do we do about this? As Catholic parents, we work on our faults and stumblings As a family. When we fall, we tell our children we are wrong. We talk to them about how we repent and we pray together. We don’t push ahead with the idea that mommy and daddy never make a mistake. We don’t “stay the course” when we err so that they have consistency. We let them know we are flawed, and the beauty of Gods love is in how he loves us and our flaws.
Our light to the world is in how we act. In how we respond to our own failings. If you are like me, sometimes you think to be the light in someone’s life, you need to be perfect. Yet sometimes, it is in our own dark moments that our light can shine brightest.