We both knew God's will was best for us. We both knew that sometimes we didn't understand it or like it. But because we have free will, we could choose to accept it.
I've explained to God that he might want to rethink this free-will business. Yes, my generation can handle it, but those young people may not be able to handle it.
"It seems to me," I've told him, "it's just too much responsibility and freedom for them." Apparently God disagrees.
I suppose every aging generation feels that way at some point. "Kids today!" And the older one gets, the broader the definition of the word "kids" becomes. When my mother was in her 90s, she still referred to my four siblings and me as "her kids." At the time of our mom's death, the "young one" was 57.
In those later years, Mom and I talked a little bit about God's will. This was after my wife, Monica, had died and Mom had been a widow for 14 years. I would jokingly say, "God's stupid will," and she would smile a little smile and answer, "Well, I wouldn't use that word."
She was joking right back, appearing to say she wouldn't use it, but she didn't completely disagree with my statement. We both knew God's will was best for us. We both knew that sometimes we didn't understand it or like it. But because we have free will, we could choose to accept it. We could choose to take the time and make the effort to figure out his will for us. We had both been through such a huge and horrible change in our lives.
Truth be told, a lifetime of free will means a lifetime of figuring out and choosing.
In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, found in No. 1730: "God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him."
It continues: "Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude."
That's where parenting comes in. A mom's role, or a dad's, includes helping a child grow and mature in truth and goodness whether that "kid" is 6 or 60. From adolescence to being an old-timer, there are so many choices and opportunities to accept and come to grips with our free will. And, as is so often the case, good builds on good. Bad leads to bad.
A parent can also help a son or daughter become better at listening to the promptings -- the nudges, if you will -- of the Holy Spirit and come to see that "your will be done" is always a good deal. In fact, it is the best deal. It is never "stupid," even when it can seem or feel that way.
That's so because God never lets us know his will for us and then abandons us. Where there's his will, there's always the way, the truth and the life.
Bill Dodds is a columnist with the Catholic News Service.
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