Last night, as I was telling my son goodnight, I lied next to him on his little bed and we looked up at his ceiling. He started saying this silly little goodnight thing we say to each other — “I love you bigger than the sky, and more than all the sand, and a thousand times as many stars”– and he suddenly stopped and asked me where heaven is, and if it’s behind the stars. I turned my face on his pillow and looked at his profile…spiky little-boy hair, big eyes. big nose, perfect little lips and chin…and I said, “I don’t know, buddy, but I know that heaven is where Jesus is.” Unsatisfied, he turned his eyes to meet mine and said, “but where is it?” Again I said, “I don’t know. No one does. We can’t get there until after we die. But if you follow Jesus, he will lead you there.”
Liam turned his eyes back toward the ceiling. I saw his chin waver a bit, and then he said, almost in a whisper, “but I can’t follow him, Mommy.” I propped myself up on one elbow and reached out to cup his cheek in my hand. “Why not, little buddy?” I asked him gently. His voice cracked as he said, “because my legs are too short.”
It sounds so cute on paper, but I didn’t feel much like laughing. I felt like crying with him. I kissed his forehead and settled my cheek against his and said, “mine are too short too, Liam. But he comes to us. He’ll come to you, buddy. He’ll never walk t0o fast for you to follow.”
The answer satisfied my 3-year-old, and he fell asleep. I lay awake for a while, though, thinking about how wise my son is, and how in 3 years he knows more about following Christ than I’ve learned in all my 29. My legs are too short too, my courage too meager, my faith too small, my heart too shriveled. Even when he matches his steps to mine I can barely keep up.
But mostly we don’t drag each other. Mostly we point fingers and mock and jeer, and
celebrate mourn the fall of another erstwhile “faithful” Catholic. The people who are willing to knuckle under and drag someone else are few and far between, in the rare company of the Good Samaritan and Simon of Cyrene.
God, that I could learn to be good enough to drag my fellow man. I have trouble just forcing my legs to be long enough to reach the ground, never mind having the kind of strength it would take to carry someone else.