Something sad but wonderful is happening in our house: Five is 'figuring out' the difficult transition from diaper-wearing dependence to big-boy underwear independence. Gone is the wide-legged trot of toddlerhood; while just last winter he insisted on holding my finger on our walks, he now struts ahead of me, so tall,and straight... and confident.
It takes confidence to not get lost in a pack of four older brothers, and Five is definitely not lost. He enters the room, or joins the game, or bellows orders from the bathroom, trusting he will be loved, accepted, obeyed. It's breathtaking.
Not many nights ago we read a story before bed. He tucked himself into my side, wrapped my arm around him, and held my hand in place. It was utterly natural to him to bestow himself as a gift. He didn't question his welcome; it didn't cross his mind that I wouldn't want him close to me. He knew to his core that he was loved. He accepted - and expected - to be loved.
It was breathtaking.
Years ago, I heard a priest propose the theory that John was the beloved disciple not because Jesus loved him more than the others, but because John allowed Jesus to love him. Perhaps he had a greater capacity; or maybe he simply expected to be loved, and when it was offered he received it without condition.
To trust like a little child is challenging for adults, but John the Beloved shows us it is possible.