Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Eyes of a Child

Our time in New Hampshire is coming to an end. As I look back on our visit here, one of the dominant features is babies – lots of them. As a pastor I have always been around babies. I was often one of the first people to hold newborns, sometimes even before the grandparents. I have greeted almost every baby in my congregations with a hug and a prayer before they were 24 hours old. Now having been out of the ministry for over a year, I have become baby-deprived. I have made up for it this trip.

During the last two months, I have not only held my own grandchildren almost every day, I have also babysat and visited with a host of other infants and toddlers. It turns out that when your children are having children, all their friends are also having children. So we become honorary grandparents to a cadre of little ones.

There is something about babies that makes the heart glad. There is a deep spiritual dimension to small children. Jesus knew it. He said that adults had to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of God. He meant that children have a natural connection to God. Early childhood is a state before sin has clouded the spiritual vision.

That is why Baptists could not stomach the Roman Catholic teaching that unbaptized infants were excluded from heaven. Jesus says just the opposite. He held them and said to the fully ritualized adults who would exclude them from his presence, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

I don’t want to slight that venerable Christian doctrine of original sin. It is obvious that every adult human is sinful. I just don’t believe that infants are sinful. They have fallen out of the womb into the sinful world of adults, but they do not share that sinfulness … yet. They are “of the kingdom of God.”

Jesus said, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” These tiny humans have a direct link to heaven. That means that we can learn from infants.

Zen calls it our original face. The koan asks, “What did your face look like before your parents were born?” If you can glimpse your face before you were conceived, then you see the face of God.

The so-called “fall of man” not only happened long ago to our original human parents. It happens to us. It is universal and unavoidable. It happens when the innocence of childhood ceases. Baptists call it “the age of accountability,” although we have never been able to clarify that idea further.

But whenever that personal “fall” occurs, we spend the rest of our lives are trying to regain our lost state. We seek to get back to the Garden in order to put the fruit back on the tree of knowledge. That is what religion is all about.

But it is futile. Cherubim with flaming swords guard the way. We spend our lives east of Eden. We only see that heavenly realm again at death … or when we look into the eyes of a child.
Photo is our new grandson Jonah Michael Davis

1 comment:

Don Hendricks said...

I am ready for God to show you your next task.
So great you had this time in NH. You write and think so beautifully.