This year, my husband and I are celebrating our granddaughters’ birthdays with a sleepover and a special outing. In July, our eldest granddaughter traveled to Chicago with us for a performance of Charlotte’s Web as part of her overnight stay. A few week’s ago, it was our middle granddaughter’s turn to celebrate with us. When we asked Lauren what she would like to do for her birthday, she asked if we could visit a dinosaur museum. Grandpa Mike investigated online and found a child-friendly venue. We planned to top off our time together with a special dinner and a bit of shopping.
When Grandpa arrived to pick up Lauren for her birthday adventure, she was standing at the door with her suitcase. Lauren could hardly wait to begin this special time away from her younger and older sisters. Grandpa offered to carry her bag to the car, but Lauren insisted upon pulling it along herself. During the drive, Lauren confirmed our plans with great anticipation. When she arrived here, Lauren carried her little suitcase up to her dad’s old room. “I’m going to sleep in Daddy’s bed, right Grandma?” When bedtime arrived, Lauren announced, “It’s strange to be here without Ellie and Claire.” We immediately picked up the phone so Lauren could wish a good night to her parents and sisters. With that, she slept soundly. The next day, after breakfast, church and an early lunch, we drove to the dinosaur museum. Though it was much smaller and less adventurous than we had hoped, Lauren reassured Grandpa and me. “It wasn’t what I expected,” she told us, “but it was still fun.” We filled the rest of the afternoon with a stroll by Lake Michigan and a visit to the pumpkin patch which we’d frequented decades earlier with our sons. These unexpected detours delighted Lauren beyond words.
That evening, when Lauren climbed into bed, she said her nighttime prayers. Afterward, she shared what she thought of this weekend together. “Grandma, I love being here with you and Grandpa. It’s fun to have you all to myself, but do you know what would be even better?” Before I could reply, Lauren went on. “It would be the most fun of all if Ellie and Claire and Mommy and Daddy could be here, and Uncle Tim and Aunt Kim, too. Then, we could all have fun together. Wouldn’t that be great?” I had no choice but to agree with this wise little child who had learned and shared an extremely important lesson regarding love. I couldn’t help considering Lauren’s observation when I turned to Matthew’s gospel.
Matthew (22:34-40) tells us that the Pharisees tested Jesus once again when they asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Without hesitation, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself…” Lauren demonstrated her understanding of both commandments throughout her stay. During rare moments of quiet, Lauren sang. She sang songs from vacation bible school and a hymn she recognized while at Mass here at St. Paul’s. She enjoyed walking around the church with Grandpa and she offered her prayers without prompting. God definitely has a place in her life. What surprised me more was Lauren’s understanding of that second commandment. Lauren could hardly wait to have her own special time with Grandpa and me. In addition to our outings, we played together, read together and watched a favorite movie together. Lauren had all of the attention she could ever hope for. Still, when all was said and done, she realized that this special time would have been even more wonderful if she could have shared it with those God has given her to love. Lauren discovered what Jesus hoped to teach the Pharisees and all who would listen so long ago: Being loved blossoms into absolute joy when we share that love with others.
You know, God doesn’t ask for our love to burden us with guilt or unreasonable demands. It does our hearts good to express gratitude to the One who loves us unconditionally and who responds to all of our needs. God doesn’t ask us to love one another to complicate our lives. God knows firsthand the joy that comes when we share our lives with one another. Jesus designated the Two Greatest Commandments for good reason. These two simple requests are the means to our happiness today and forever. Just ask Lauren.
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