Like most young teenagers, I never really allowed myself to deeply ponder the concept of what it meant to “become like one of these little ones” (Mt. 18:3) or more typically to have “faith like a child”. Like many other teenagers though, it was music that challenged me to ponder this reality as I heard it on the Jars of Clay’s debut album. In an era of great Christian music like “Jesus Freak” and “Big House” I was struck by the Beatle-esque guitar and vocal arrangements and the lyrics that were deeply honest in confronting the reality of trying to live out Christianity despite human brokenness.
I have been reflecting on this passage more and more over the last few years as a parent, but the birth of our youngest challenged me to really ponder the meaning of this concept through the lens of “infant faith”.
Anyone who has spent a day with an infant knows they usually thrown out of their peace only by a few things: hunger, a dirty diaper, tiredness, and/or wanting to be in the arms of a parent. It is through this same reality that we should ponder our faith life, and only by treating these areas most frequently can we seriously dive into living a child-like faith or an adult faith.
The Christian life requires us to hunger for God’s food, and without it we will find ourselves as frustrated as the screaming infant just up from their nap and ready to eat. The Lord feeds us in His Word and His Eucharist and it is in this meal that we are made the most content. We also however feel it and know it when we starve ourselves by not turning to Scripture and/or the Eucharist. Whether this means we’ve been totally away from the Scriptures or the Eucharist or we just know we could spend fifteen more minutes a day reading God’s Word or getting up early one day a week to make a daily Mass, that yearning is real and the Father wants to feed us.
Often for an infant the one thing that seems to bother them even more than hunger is a soiled diaper. Indeed if that irritation is there they often won’t eat even if they are starving. This is the same for our own faith lives. Nothing tears us away more from the Lord than our sinfulness. We repent daily as well as turn to the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, reaching up to our Father with the infant arms of one who is clean and ready to leave the changing table.
Continuing on, anyone who has been around an infant that is over-tired knows they are almost inconsolable, even if offered food, changing, sleep, or even a parent’s embrace. This is the same for us. When we don’t escape the busyness of our lives, our jobs, our commitments, and the extra layers of life we live through social media, we find ourselves in a state of exhaustion that is often inconsolable. We have to be aware of this reality and fight it with the same passion that a good parent uses to get their infant on a daily schedule. We have to take time away for prayer and retreat beyond even the normal spiritual commitments. We need to go on retreat or pilgrimage. We need to rest physically. Vacations are blessings. Even God took one (sort of)!
Ultimately though, our deepest desire to rest in the arms of the Father. All of these things we’ve just listed are needs that are met through the parents. It is no different in the spiritual life. Let us reach out to His open arms, resting ourselves within them, and trusting that we are being “raised” to live out our lives in heaven.