“At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?’ So he called a little child to him whom he set among them. Then he said, ‘In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
Board Games and Old Memories
Do you like board games? Maybe you haven’t played a board game since you were a kid. Maybe you only play games when your nieces and nephews are in town. Maybe, like me, there is no board game you won’t try. Some think board games are “childish” or simply a stage in life that you pass out of after 4th grade. Personally, rather than being “childish” I think “childlike” is a better word choice, since Jesus himself tells us that to enter Heaven we must become like kids. It makes us stop and think: Am I living like a child? What does Jesus even mean by these words?
I have a group of friends who get together regularly to play board games. Call it childish if you like but we are 23 and still play games. I’m not talking Monopoly® and Scrabble® but rather, strategy board games that most people have never heard of. We have known each other since we were 5 and went through K-8 Catholic school together but didn’t start these game nights until the summer before college. We have graduated college, entered serious relationships, started careers, but reunited over one thing: to laugh and have a good time over board games. We reminisce the past: 3rd grade PE teachers, middle school crushes, art projects, and bell choir practice. Game nights are our safe zone. Two girls and three guys hanging out and walking down memory lane—not even thinking about which job to take, if the new relationship will work out, or when we will find our own place. We simply laugh and enjoy the company of those around us, like being a kid again, instead of talking about the tough stuff. To quote Disney’s Lion King (why not take this moment to bring out each of our inner Disney child), you could say our game night motto is:
What a wonderful phrase.
Ain’t no passin’ craze
It means no worries for the rest of your days!
A Deep Spot Within
One night everyone left the game night except for me and one friend. Let’s call him Dom. We started a conversation about the everyday struggles of daily life. We talked about breakups, depression, and many of the problems in our culture today: social media, a lack of self worth, and putting on masks to cover our true selves. I entered a deep place within myself where I feel the weight of the world’s pain and suffering on my shoulders. This is a spot I don’t get to very often but this friend somehow pulled it out of me. I felt the sorrow that burdens the world, the pain that hurt Christ and still hurts Him, and His wounds which are our wounds—the world’s suffering. The ice pack to relieve this crippling pain in the world today is LOVE: of God, of neighbor, and of self.
Kids often don’t worry about these struggles. Hakuna Matata. They have parents to make sure they cross the street alright. Parents who pay the bills. They look at the hungry child next to them and offer their M&M’s regardless of the other child’s appearance or social standing. Aren’t we called to be childlike every day even when we are burdened by the world? To hold our heads up and say “Hakuna Matata?” Not in an apathetic way but rather to put everything in His hands, to not worry, because we as children of God do have a parent watching out for us and protecting us in our every move. We need to trust that the battle was already won. He has worked out all the details already in His perfect plan. He died, but that wasn’t the end of the story. He has RISEN and so we too have hope as we ask for faith and trust in His plan.
Role of the Cloistered Nun
When I get into this funk of seeing the pain in the world, I see my vocation clearer. I see the WHY behind my call to religious life. I have been called to PRAY for the whole world. Not just this, but to do this behind the walls of a cloistered monastery of nuns. To give up everything and follow Him (Luke 18:22). To hand over my life to Him and for Him without reserve. To be His bride. To do this in order for mercy to reign on this nation that some days seems to be crumbling. People are forgetting they are loved, forgetting their identity, forgetting their hope, forgetting the Truth. They’re forgetting that their hope is in Christ, their identity is in Christ, their salvation was won for them already by Christ. The Truth is in Christ for “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Are we believing as children believe and trust? Don’t kids trust that their parents will not let them go hungry and will get them to school? Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). If He calls Himself the Truth, do you believe that the “Truth will set you free” (John 8:32)? As a child is free, we too are freed through the one who has freed us through His death and resurrection. His Father sent Him into the world to free us from the slavery of sin and as His children, we must rely on our Father and His INFINITE love for us. He will work out the details for us. Hakuna Matata.
Instead of worrying, all I can do is pray or make my requests known to God who loves us as His children. I pray that every person will come to know this person, Jesus, in a personal and intimate way. As a sister, I will plead my future spouse and His mother for little glimmers of hope, for perseverance, for courage, for healing, for peace. Hope for whom, though? Peace for whom? For the whole world. Not just for my family, my parish, the homeless, the lawyers, the prostitutes, the teachers, the elderly, the drug-addicts, the babies, the nobodies. I pray for every person. That is what a cloistered nun does. A contemplative nun lives in silence enclosed from the outside world to pray. For YOU. For the conversion of every soul. Every person. To pray for those who do not know Him, do not believe in Him, do not love Him, do not adore Him, and do not hope in Him. They pray for those who turn from him purposefully, those who are in mortal sin, those who have fallen. They ask pardon for those who do not believe, adore, hope in, or love Him (Message of Fatima). We pray for the needs of the entire world.
The Father’s Love
When I ended this conversation with my friend about the sorrows in the world today, he must have been able to see I was in a deep contemplative spot. Just from talking about these things I got myself worked up without meaning to. He did something I will be forever grateful for. Dom simply smiled and said, “I love talking with you.”
These words put me at ease. I can imagine God the Father would have had the same response to His hurting child. Just as a father comforts his beautiful little worrying child with an “I love you,” my friend was telling me that “every little thing’s gonna be alright” as Bob Marley sings. Sometimes that’s all we need to ease our worries. It is simply that look from your dad that simply says, “I delight in you.” The dad who loves you not because of what you do but because of who you are, his child. God the Father is this kind of father. All loving. It’s not what we do that makes Him love us, it is simply by BEING who we are. We are the beloved daughter or son of the most high king. Our identity and being is what matters for He says, “I’ve called you by name: You are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1). That is what our good Father tells us each day if we listen. He just wants us to talk to him, and then He will respond as my friend did and say, “I love talking with you.” When we are all worried and worked up, we need to take a step back and hear our Father speak in the silence to us: “Everything is going to be alright, my child. Stay close to my son and the Blessed Mother.” When we can’t see the plan and are losing hope, our little minds can’t even grasp his grand plans. In these moments we need to abandon ourselves to Him and trust that His ways are much, much greater than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). Hear Him say to you, “I delight in you for just BEING you. Trust my plan. Hakuna Matata.”
Thank you, Dom, for teaching me the Father’s love and turning that moment into a lesson on how to love better in the little moments of life. And thank you for turning that conversation into lighthearted card playing, our safety zone. Games are for kids? *Cue Trix Cereal Commercial* Then we’ll be one step closer to Heaven by being like children!
“Don’t worry, just pray” ~ Philippians 4:6
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry” ~ St. Padre Pio
© Jamie Leatherby 2017
Photo Credit: Stock Snap