Recently I wrote a piece on what I called “sacred aging.” In that piece I wanted to point out the difference between what I called sacred aging and simply getting older. I believe everyone gets older. Unless you die, you are in the process of getting older. It is perhaps most stark in a retirement center or nursing home. In those places there is a constellation of old people. In many ways they have already gotten old---and are in the process of getting older. But they all still have a choice about sacred aging.
Almost in a blink of the eye, I was presented with a stark alternative to sacred aging. This new experience was easy to label as “sacred gift.” Since it has to do with gift, that means I had almost nothing to do to get the gift. All gifts plunk into our laps. Allow me to tell you about the sacred gift.
My sacred gift is a granddaughter. As with all kids, she was born a very little baby! Of course, babies rapidly grow. They turn into adolescents and then teenagers in what often seems like warp speed. Soon enough they are zooming through high school and proudly run off to college and the rest of their lives. If we are lucky, we are kept in the loop of information and updates. Sometimes they get married and have babies. That at least is the trajectory of how I got a granddaughter.
Obviously, I had a great deal to do with my daughter. Blood, sweat and tears went into her upbringing, as all parents can narrate. When your kids make it on their own, you feel a sense of accomplishment and relief. At least, that was how I felt. Then you realize your kids are going to replicate what you did! They begin the pattern all over. And not surprisingly, grandsons and granddaughters often are the result. That has now happened to me.
It hit me when I became aware of sitting in my chair with my granddaughter in my arms. She is a sacred gift. I did not ask for her. I was not consulted. I was not asked if I wanted a grandchild. I did nothing to create or foster this experience. And there I sat with a little kid that theoretically carries my DNA and will be part of my legacy. In an odd way she is “mine.”
It sounds odd to use that possessive pronoun---“mine.” For sure, she is “my” granddaughter because she is the “kid of my kid.” In that sense, she definitely is “mine.” But in many other senses, she is not “mine.” Basically, she is God’s child---God’s precious child. In this respect she is just like every other baby that is born. That includes me and it includes you, too. Each one of us is God’s child.
This is a great reminder for myself. If she is a child of God, as I am a child of God, then that gives every one of us special status. As a child of God, she comes as a sacred gift to my daughter and me, as grandparent. As I see it, there is actually only one appropriate response: thank you! Gracias. As I held her in my arms, that is all I could think to say: gracias. I hope I can maintain my sense of appreciation for the gift that she is.
Then the implications hit me. If she is a child of God, so am I. As such, I also am a sacred gift. I did not cease to be a special gift when my parents died. I am not limited as a special gift only to my parents. In the widest sense possible, I am God’s sacred gift to the entire world. And so are you.
What if we each began to see ourselves and fully appreciate ourselves as a sacred gift? That would re-orient a great deal of self-perception. I suspect most folks do not see themselves as a sacred gift. I like this perspective and want to live more fully into that truth about myself.
If we can begin to see ourselves and each other more and more in this light, then we would begin to appreciate ourselves and each other in profoundly new and enriched ways. If I see you as sacred gift, then I value you in significant ways. To go to this level would portend huge things. I imagine that love would break out all over the place. I certainly feel love for the little bundle in my arms. I am not going to take you into my arms---literally, at least. But if I see you as sacred gift, then I figuratively will take you in my arms. Love will lead.
And, I believe, peace will follow. To see everyone as sacred gift should lead to less conflict, far less chaos and a radical out breaking of peace. This would be like the prelude to communion as practiced by the Catholics and other liturgical tradition. Before going to the communion table, everyone offers to each other “the peace.” “The peace of the Lord be with you.” And I respond with something like, “and peace be with you.”
If we can all see ourselves and each other as sacred gifts in the world, we would necessarily become lovers and peacemakers. Funny what holding a kid can do! Turns out to be a sacred gift!