Real Life. Real Faith.
It’s true that our time on earth is a tiny dot on the line of eternity, and it’s true that time softens the sharp edges of our wounds. It is also true that when we are sad, Jesus is sad with us. These things are true and good and comforting.
It’s true that sending my children to college is the right thing for them. They will explore the world, they will discern their calling, and they will continue on their own personal journeys toward Christ.
It’s also true that sending them off feels like a part of my heart is being shredded in a grater, like a slab of cheddar. Really, it’s more like a wheel of brie because my heart is soft. These are the times I yearn for a Parmesan heart — a harder cheese — one that shreds but maybe not so easily. A resilient cheese heart.
As I watched my daughter prepare to set off on her new life adventure to college across the country, I felt excitement. Her enthusiasm was catching. I also felt loss because she will no longer be living in my house. She will not come bouncing through the door or barreling down the steps shouting “Madre!” ready to tell me the story of her day. There are many things that won’t happen again for a few months, and I was sad because I like having this kid around.
I was praying a Rosary one morning, driving to work and questioning the efficacy of my prayer. I wasn’t feeling the feelings I sometimes feel I should feel while praying. I was too caught up in the impending change in family life. A thought crept its way into my head and, thankfully, I was already slowing to a stop because I was at a minor risk of crashing my car.
“This is how I feel,” whispered the thought.
I realized yet another parallel in being a parent and relating to God, my heavenly Father. This sadness, this hole, is akin to how God feels when we turn from him. He misses us. I have been reading lately how much God loves and delights in us. He wants us near him. We are his joy, and he goes to exceeding lengths to get us to turn toward him and stay. He died so we could join him in heaven, so great is his longing for us.
When I reflect on my children as toddlers, how amusing they were and how much pleasure they brought me, I wonder if it is similar to how God feels about us. We are his toddlers.
So, I felt sad for a time. My daughter is one of my favorite people, and she brings joy to our quotidian family life, but I know that college is not a giant cosmic black hole, sucking her in and away. I learned that when the first kid headed off to school. She will still need us just as we need her. Just as we need God, and while he doesn’t need me, he deeply desires me.
I don’t want to hurt God. I don’t want God to miss me. His love for me is immeasurably greater than my love for my children. So, while this part of life is a challenge, I’m learning a lesson. When I turn from God, it hurts him.
I love him, and I don’t want to hurt the one I love, so I resolve to remember this feeling and remember this lesson because God doesn’t need me, but he wants me, and that is amazing.