I remember asking my mom about raising children a few years ago, and this part of her response echoed through my mind, year after year after year.
“We do not own our children,” she told me, “They do not belong to us.”
She recounted the gist of a pastoral message that hit her hard many years before. At first she was offended by this idea, she said, because it seemed to say that parents weren’t in charge of their children. But gradually she began to understand that parents are very much in charge–what she needed to understand was the nature of that responsibility.
“Our children,” she told me, “belong to God. We only get to keep them for a little while. Then, we have to give them back to God.”
This is a painful message. We love our children, however imperfectly, with our very beings. We helped create them with our very bodies. When we give our children back to God–through prayer, through the giving of our time, our teaching, our instruction–we are asked to be selfless, to give something of our self back to God.
But isn’t that just a small part of what God asks of us? God asks for our whole self. We do not even own ourselves.
We belong to God.