Lying on the floor this morning, trying to overcome guilt for neglecting “crunches” (as in ab-work), my shirt kept creeping up above my waist with each curl up and curl back down. (Don’t be tempted to get too excited here, since a sports-bra from a previous life hugged my upper torso in an unflattering way, although I did notice my 11 month old grandson studying the exposed flesh tones and textures between my midriff and waistband. Boys tend to see “skin” sooner than girls it seems, no matter the age.) I had to laugh as he poked at a belly button I rarely see from above. Ironically, I thought, he’d found the “cradle of civilization” neatly retracted into a cave of sorts—an archeological find supporting evidence that all life has a previous connection. Ok, that’s a little deep for the subject at hand: seeing through the eyes of a child. From their vantage point we can’t consider historical information or theories of evolution or creation—make your case, but it’s not relative here—-children are simply taking it all in, as if everything has its own fascinating function to be studied and put somewhere in their invisible “hard-drive”—-in this case, a curious muddle of skin in a little puddle of baby drool. Not so sexy or profound, but still of interest to a neophyte explorer.
During “before-naptime-play”, I made colored plastic ducks waddle into a little truck and disappear as the tailgate closed. It became my grandson’s delight to figure out how to lift the roof and drop the tailgate to rescue them from their plastic transport. The night before, smaller ducks of the same polycarbonate-feathered breed, had been submerged and brought out to squeeze and “spit” across a bathtub reservoir, like bothered lama. His giggles had brought his great- grandmother walking quickly down the hallway to see the vigorous slapping of water and over-splash landing on the bathroom floor. (Where else can you get away with flooding the house and still be taken up, wrapped in clean towels and smothered in hugs?)
All of this to say, experiencing life alongside a child is a re-awakening to what appears before us every day , so easily missed if we don’t pay attention. Observing sensory responses as little ones become aware of things they’ve never encountered is a fascination for the likes of me— a sojourner, who often grows weary pressing along the pathway of life. It seems, as we age, our expectations of experiencing “firsts” diminishes, while routines we call discipline and habits we must forgive, dim our sense of surprise and wonderment. But when windows in our lives somehow open to new perspectives, we are momentarily more attuned to nuance and small thrills of unexpected “gifts”.
Smiling and laughing, without premeditated thought, begins to replace the monotony of same-ness, while the comfort of the familiar remains as a steady base from which to take calculated risks. We are free to love life—refreshed with the understanding that it is an organic process, not a routine set in stone—–a one-way ticket out of pits of despair that can easily paralyze the best of intentions, if we choose to shut the window offering fresh air.
Seeing life through the eyes of a child softens the hardened heart and re-awakens the mind’s ability to “Believe Again” in something too wonderful and immense for us to grasp, otherwise. As a young mother, I “got” this a little, but lately I’ve been “getting it” anew. As a first time grandmother of an almost one-year-old aware boy, my attention outside of work is often drawn to his inquisitive gaze, and the endearing tug of his small hands reaching to steady himself and rise to the highest vantage point provided by anyone persuaded to lift him above his lowly standing. He endearingly molds his small body into trusted arms, and holds the attention of those who embrace him with ease. His delight is in most everything he sees, hears, touches, smells, or tastes, and his thirst for exploration is ever-expanding. All he knows now is people who are there to nurture and provide a safe place for him to discover the relatively small world that delights him, most of the time. He is a child. He is where we all want to be for eternity—–in trusted arms that both guide and protect us as we explore, discover, and come to terms with our humanity in a universe we will never know completely, as we “pass through”.
Outside of this protected environment, we’re brought to the reality of evil in the world, and required to navigate a sea of complexities through painful seasons of life that shake our trust and bring turmoil to our earthly experiences. In the vast expanses of the world and challenges of creating communities, we adults can easily lose touch with the child-like trust needed to experience joy and wonderment. We are asked to give up childish ways, and lead by example, extending compassion to those who struggle or feel hurt, understanding we are have limitations. We cannot avoid the reality that there are people who can and will harm what we hold dear, as well as powers of nature beyond our control that can quickly undermine our sense of security and comfort. At times we get so immersed in problems, we forget to look for the solace and companionship that brings us back to center……that it’s not all about productivity, but restoration from within.
It’s hard to allow those for whom I’ve cared the freedom to fall or fail, and risk being hurt. But letting go, allowing consequences of choices, as each finds their way for better or worse, and trusting again in things hoped for yet unseen, is as much a part of love as “holding onto”. Experiencing life through the eyes of a child is a reminder there can be spontaneity and excitement with each new encounter, as the more mature help define boundaries for creative growth. When we gain assurances and understand we are loved within “safe spaces”, the essence of what we call “life” is recovered and can be embraced. We are then able to move forward, confidently, even as children who grow up to become adults with a greater appreciation for opportunities to adventure and be part of a creative process.
Visiting the beach and introducing my grandson to the ocean, along with his great-grandmother, was another first—another window to a whole new world—-for us all— between 1 and 78. Experiencing again what I had come to take for granted, through the eyes of a child, was a wake-up call to be open to the here and now, and not dwell in the past—-to feel the sand and sun and water, and taste the salt of a much larger future, as wide and as deep as the ocean rolling in and rushing back out to new horizons.
Through the eyes of a child we find our root, rebirth, and perspectives of hope for brighter, more forgiving futures and wonder-filled “firsts”.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)
“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)
“….. when the perfect comes, the imperfect will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child; when I became an [adult], I did away with childish things.” ( I Corinthians 13: 10,11 )
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland…that the people I formed for myself might proclaim my praise.” (Isaiah 43: 18-21)