Through the Eyes of a Child
The first week of January 2013 not only signifies the beginning of a new year, it also marks the birth of a little girl named Emry, whose father has been one of my oldest friends since childhood. Charles was the late-bloomer of our small band of brothers, and becoming a dad for the first time (at the age of 55) will have challenges as well as rewards. I pray for God's blessings upon Charles and his wife, Petra, and their new arrival. God willing, Charles and Petra will experience a heavenly wonder through the eyes of that little baby---where everything new under the sun will be shared in a cry, a coo, a shriek of delight, a look of curiosity, a smile, a touch of softness, a triumph through exploration, and a profound acknowledgement of one's own vulnerability and helplessness.
Through the eyes of a child, parents and grandparents see the world differently. It cannot be helped really, that sense of joy that babies and toddlers bring to the heart of loving parents. From my own experience, having children changed my focus from self-centered concerns to the necessities and responsibilities of caring for another life, unlike the vows taken in the bond of marriage. From the moment my children were born, I was their father for good or bad. I had to relate to those new human beings in nonverbal ways, establishing a relationship with each individual child regardless of each temperament and personality. The enormity of the task ahead---a determination to have a positive and meaningful impact; to leave a lasting favorable impression and loving legacy to my children---was never lost on this dad.
Each new arrival reminds me that there is something special and purposeful about life. Life speaks volumes about connectivity, relationship, and mysteries yet to be explored. I could never look into the faces of my kids or grand-kids and declare anyone of them random, accidental, or insignificant. To do so would be unconscionable and ungodly. For not only is there a person emerging into the world with promise and potential, there is also a personality with gifts and talents waiting to be unlocked, developed, and expressed.
Perhaps it was that imagery of a child that Jesus had in mind when his disciples asked him about who would be the greatest in Heaven (the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18, verses 1-5, NIV):
'At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
'He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."'
Through the eyes of a child, Jesus made a profound statement about the hearts of his disciples. It was apparent by the line of questioning that their hearts were fixed upon worldly rank and status. Why else would they ask such a question? If Heaven was as wonderful as Jesus proclaimed and described it, would one's status matter? Wouldn't it be better to be in the presence of God as a lowly shepherd, than gain the power of a king and burn in the fires of hell? Jesus' visual aid to understanding the importance of heaven was epitomized in a child.
The disciples were not children. They had witnessed miracles, walked with the Master and observed him every day. The power Jesus demonstrated was not destructive, nor did he use his power for personal acclaim or advantage. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the blind sight, gave hearing to the deaf, restored the lame and crippled, cast out evil spirits, raised the dead and never lorded his power over anyone, not even the Evil One. Jesus made himself low, as a servant, to demonstrate the principle to gaining entry into God's presence and the kingdom of heaven. It required two things: Change in action and change in perspective.
In order to see heaven, Jesus told his disciples they would have to change. It wasn't enough for them to know about God. Being chosen as a disciple of Jesus was not a guarantee of eternal life. It was not enough to merely walk with God. One had to change and reject worldly notions of self. And one had to change perspective by seeing things through new eyes; through the eyes of a child. Everything the disciples knew had to be made new through faith. Acceptance into God's kingdom could not be earned by goodness, for no one was really good according to God's law.
Eternal life required a change of heart; everything new---everything fresh, and bright, and clean. God would provide the sacrifice and Jesus would go willingly for your sake and mine. But unless the offer of grace and mercy was received as a child might look forward to opening a wrapped gift, then the gift could not be received. Perhaps some worldly person might suspect a catch or gimmick and refuse to even touch the present. Or in the interest of fairness, another worldly person might deny the gift claiming it was somehow arbitrary or conditional. Why should I open such a gift when there are others clearly more deserving than I? While others, thinking themselves too far from God because of sin, never would imagine such a gift could be theirs either.
Yet a child has no such concerns or inhibitions about receiving a gift. The focus upon the wrapping paper and the wonder of what may be inside are simply too irresistible for most young children. The heart of a child yearns to be surprised with good gifts and is willing to take the risk of opening the package. Why else would a gift be wrapped if not to inspire wonder and mystery? The heart of a child is not cynical or skeptical. And a child seldom mocks the giver of a gift.
And so, I am hopeful for my good friend, Charles, and his lovely wife, Petra. God has given them a true gift in the birth of little Emry. A life with hope, promise, potential, and joy has been wrapped thoughtfully in love for them to experience. Freely given by God Himself, everything new awaits them through the eyes of a child.
I feel like a child waiting to open a wrapped gift under the Christmas tree! I am filled with joy and wonder. I can hardly wait to see her!
God Bless Charles, Petra, and little Emry.
(Note: Emry was born at 9:43 p.m. (PST), Friday, January 4, 2013, in Santa Monica, California. She weighed 7 lbs, 6 oz, and was 20.5 inches long.)
(copyright 2013, Gregory Allen Doyle)