One afternoon on the quiet drive to half-day kindergarten, my four-year-old son broke the silence in the car to ask a question:
"Why did God even make us?"
Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I saw my son staring out the window at nothing in particular, his little brow furrowed with lines of concentration. "Why did God even make us?" he asked again.
After a pause, I responded: "That's a great question, Jack. What made you think about that?" (I learned early on in my parenting career to respond to most children's questions with another question. This technique provides many benefits: it acknowledges a question right away while giving me more time to think; it helps me and the child understand the context of the question; and it counteracts my natural inclination to talk too much, to over-answer what might be a simple question.)
"Well," he began, "God is perfect, right? He lives in heaven where everything is perfect all the time. So if God is perfectly happy in heaven, then why bother making us?"
I was so astonished by Jack's thought process, all I wanted to do was pull over and absorb the moment. Or maybe go to a coffee shop--or a bar?--to sit with my little son and his huge question.
Because Jack was fond of action stories and has an artistic soul, this was my answer to him that afternoon: "The Bible tells us God is love, right? Love always wants to reach out, to create new things. God's love is so perfect and creative and big, that he just sort of EXPLODES people everywhere!"
"Aw, cool!" The answer sufficed, and I heaved a sigh of wonder and relief.
I often think about that conversation with Jack. The entire exchange hangs around in my imagination, even years later, and invites me to reflect. I thought about Jack's question again when I heard Fr. Robert Barron speak a couple of weeks ago. Fr. Barron loves the work of second-century theologian St. Irenaeus. (Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, who was a student of John, the beloved disciple of Christ himself. Not too shabby!) Fr. Barron proposes
that "the master idea in Irenaeus’s theology is that God has no need of anything outside of himself." In other words, God does not need us.
God does not need us.
Instead, God wants us. God thirsts for us.
As Jack realized on his way to school, God doesn't need us. The great adventure of our family life, then, is the celebration and exploration of how intensely God wants
each of us. St. Augustine
says, "God thirsts that we may thirst for him" (CCC ¶2560). How breathtaking it is to realize God wants me personally and has a unique plan for me! This passage from Jeremiah puts it another way:
Jeremiah's words have been helpful to our oldest daughter these days, as she awaits the very last of all her college scholarship and financial aid offers. Applying to college or for a job can be grueling, even demeaning, as applicants put themselves on display for the highest bidder. No matter how carefully worded the letters are, acceptances scream "We want you!" and rejections mean "You failed." Prayer is especially important at life moments like this, because prayer reminds us that we are creatures of a loving and endlessly creative God. Prayer helps us shed our inflated or damaged egos and offers perspective.
Perhaps you know someone who could use extra prayer right now. Perhaps you need the power of prayer yourself today. Prayer is beautiful; it expands our hearts and minds. We can all put a little time aside to remember we are God's precious children. God makes us in an explosion of gratuitous love, and he thirsts for our own love in return. Prayer is that exchange of love. As St. Teresa of Avila says, prayer is a "close sharing between friends."
Let's pray today. Let's pray in faith, confident that the God who wants
us knows how to give us all good things. God has a "future of hope" planned for each of us, so let's seek him with all our heart.