Lessons from my Three-Year-Old
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field.
— Psalm 103:13-15 (NRSV)
Ash Wednesday is a reminder that we are fashioned from dust, and to dust we will return. However, children are a reminder that a whole lot happens between those dusty bookends, and while we are on this Earth, we have work to do – and we can’t always do it alone.
My son is at the age where he wants to do everything on his own. One recent morning, we were getting ready for his day at preschool, and he decided he needed to dress himself. We’d just completed the delicate negotiations about what he would wear when he spoke the familiar words, “No, Daddy, I want to do it. Can I please do it?”
What ensued was an hour-long battle with underwear, pants, two different shirts (he changed his mind halfway through), a sweatshirt and a zipper. The arm would go in the wrong armhole. Two legs would come out of one pant leg. You get the picture. I offered to help him untangle himself. I asked him if he wanted me to show him a more efficient way. I even demonstrated with my clothing. To no avail. His response was always, “No, Daddy, I want to do it.”
When he finally finished dressing, he broke down into tears and then ran into my arms. He had accomplished, on his own, a task that would have taken only a few minutes with my help. However, the struggle was more significant than his sense of accomplishment. He was depleted. Regardless, he knew I would be there to comfort him, to kiss his head and to praise him for his perseverance.
As I think about that morning, I am reminded of Jesus. I can only imagine him watching us struggle, wanting to reach out and help or offer guidance, only to be rebuffed by our desire to do it ourselves. How frustrating must it be to watch us wrestle with life knowing that the struggle could be alleviated if we would only be willing to ask for or receive help. A hard-learned lesson taught to me by a three-year-old.
The children in our lives, our greatest gifts, are also some of our most profound sages.
“I have learned from my son that together we can accomplish more, with more peace, than we could ever do alone.”
This Lenten season, Episcopal Relief & Development is offering a meditations series that explores the spiritual lives of children and what they can teach us. These readings are a moving collection of daily reminders that even the youngest among us, often overlooked, are a beautiful reminder of the love, compassion and nurture of Jesus.
I encourage you to sign up for daily email meditations in English and Spanish or to subscribe to the reflections as podcasts as part of your Lenten Journey. Additionally, I join the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church by reiterating his invitation to “all congregations to devote a Sunday in Lent to reflect on the transformational work of Episcopal Relief & Development, particularly their work with children, and to tangibly demonstrate God’s love by giving generously to support ONE THOUSAND DAYS OF LOVE,” our grassroots effort to expand our life-changing work with children.
I have learned from my son that together we can accomplish more, with more peace, than we could ever do alone. The same is true as we work to ensure that children can grow, learn and thrive over their entire lives. This Lenten season, consider the children, what they can teach us and how through our acts of love, we can help communities to nurture our little ones to their full potential.
To learn more about our Lenten Meditations and other materials or plan an Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday, visit www.episcopalrelief.org/Lent. Supporters are also invited to sign up for daily email meditations in English and Spanish and to subscribe to listen to podcasts.
First Image: Hamidu holds the foot of his 6-month old daughter Rukaya during a meeting with an Early Childhood Development promoter in Ghana. Photo by Mike Smith for Episcopal Relief & Development.