Interactions with children are truly transformative experiences for all human beings that come in contact with them, especially those who are nearest to them. Many parents I talk to tell me of the renewed sense of joy that that fills them just by being in contact with their children. Many men that I converse with tell me that they have a different understanding of God after they become fathers. They speak of an experienced reality in which they can relate to God’s love for them, as they experience the love they have for their children. Many women I talk with tell me about the beauty of their pregnancies. Yes, there are struggles with sickness, bodily changes, and the daily wear and tear of being pregnant. But, they have also shared with me the transformation they experience in carrying in them life, and the love, care, and joy they hold for this life. Maybe this experience of pregnancy is what Paul is talking about when he says that women will be saved through their childbearing.
Being a child presents radical hope. Parents are called to “raise” their children. This requires a presence into an understanding of who the child is and who they are becoming. That becoming presents a hope not only for the parent, but for the child itself. Both parents and children dream of the endless opportunities that exist. This is the beauty of the child who has infinite dreams and opportunities. The job of the parents is to experience the child in their joy of these dreams, and help nurture and guide them into their future.
Yet, there is also a different kind of hope that comes from children. A hope that not only stems from the promise of what will be, but one that is rooted in what already is. Parents who push and manipulate their kid into the biggest future that they see miss out on the wonder and awe of children. They sacrifice the quality of their kids’ lives for the sake of progress. Children have a keen ability to live their lives in the present moment. They are in the highest sense living their lives to the fullest. Jurgen Moltmann writes in his book In The End — The Beginning, on that fulfilled life, “Every lived moment has an eternal significance and constitutes a fulfilled life. For the fulfilled life is not measured by the number of years that have been lived through, or spent in one way or another. It is measured according to the depth of lived experiences.” As children live out their fulfilled life, it is an invitation to parents to experience the mystery and beauty of this child-like life. We can reconcile our lost lives, and re-experience the, as Moltmann says, “Boundless astonishment (as) we followed the flight of a fly, and perplexed our parents with unanswerable ‘whys’. We could play in complete self-forgetfulness and react spontaneously with laughter or tears.”
This is some of the hope that we can find in childhood. Both in observing our own, but also observing the hope of the children around us. We are reminded of the great mystery, beauty, and promise of the life that is, and the life that awaits us.