Tuesday, October 16, 2012

how my children teach me to forgive

Child of God. We hear these words often enough. "You are a child of God" we say to one another; "I am a child of God" we describe ourselves. But as I've meditated on how we live, on how we relate to God and to each other, on how we enter into our relations with God and the Church, I've come to the realization that we may be only paying lip-service to these words. Child of God.


Or perhaps we do believe. Perhaps we truly do see ourselves as a child of God. But not a "child" child. An adult child, a child who has grown up. After all, don't nearly all parents say of their grown children, "Oh, you'll always be my baby" despite the practical evidence to the contrary? But while I know my mother looks at me and can see me as the infant, the toddler, the dimply-kneed ringlet-headed girl I once was, our relationship has most definitely changed. Now myself a mother twice over, she and I are more peers than we ever were before. We understand each other in more fundamental and complex ways than was ever before possible.

Is this true of our relationship with God? Jesus calls us "brother"; Jesus calls us "friend". But it's extremely dodgy theology to in any way suggest that we are now in a peer relationship with God. Jesus removes the barriers of sin that divided us from God, the salvation of Christ lifts us up to the beatific radiance of God's glory, but it does not make us peers with God. 

We need to start taking these words at face-value. I am a child of God. I am a child. Not a post-child, not a former child, but a child here and now. I do not understand what is before me. I do not see what God sees. I do not act with Christ's maturity, understanding or grace.

But look at children! Look at the kindness of children. Our four year old has a habit of antagonizing our one year old. She's been known to use her considerable advantage in size, pushing, body-blocking, grabbing, and pulling her younger sister around. And what does our one year old do in response? Rather than returning in kind, more often than not she cries out in alarm, in distress, only to reach out to her sister once again. She's more guarded, quicker to protect herself, but bears no grudge. She reaches out, again and again and again to her debtor. And how does her older sister respond? With further torment? No, instead she learns from her small sister's kindness, takes her by the hand, embraces her, laughs with her, plays with her.


Their relationship is a true, human microcosm of real forgiveness. It isn't blind or self-dismissing: there is room for self-care and protection. But it is never ending, it is repetitious, it is kind and it is healing. And my children understand it. They do. And while their father and I have tried to manifest that forgiveness for them, it seems far more innate than learned. So if my children can naturally fall into Christ-like patterns of forgiveness, being a true child of God isn't such a bad thing, is it? As Psalm 8:2 reads,

Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.

Approach God as a child, free of pretence or self-importance, of self-aggrandisement or pride. Approach Her in wonder, in awe, in complete lack of understanding, in utter confusion. Lift up your voice in joy, in laughter, in glee, in spontaneity, in total disregard for propriety. Fall on your knees in dependence, in reliance, in need.  She doesn't call us to be strong but to embrace our weakness, to accept and acknowledge our brokenness.

Scarlet autumn in the park

Like the child that you are, let her "cover you with her wings; you will be safe in her care; her faithfulness will protect and defend you."


  1. Ant-y Ess8:22 PM

    "...real forgiveness. It isn't blind or self-dismissing: there is room for self-care and protection."

    Beautifully put, the balance we all need.

  2. I love this Darlene. I am spiritual but not tied to a religion. I have my own personal relationship with God and that for me, right now is enough. The idea of presenting yourself as a child before Her is relevant for me right now. I am knee deep in Steiner and one of the first basic concepts is that you are teaching not only the child before you, but also the child that is 24,34,64,104. We are all of those people all the time, we are just here in this present moment showing this specific age to the world right now. Things taught and learned when your littles are 4 and 1 will be there when they are 84 and 81. So why can't we present that child that we still are to God? Despite the age we appear, we are still that toddler, that infant, that teenager. It is a lovely thought and I can see how our Mother's always see us that way. For them, they carry that age with them, and even though they see us as we are now, they have the amazing ability to see us as we were as well. God has that ability as well, which, for me at least, is such a comforting thought. To know that now matter what, I will still be looked upon as a child in Her eyes. Lovely thoughts!

    1. I love that idea, Jennifer, that we are still the child that we were. Less a casting off of youth than a putting on of adulthood while the infant, the child, the youth remains present. It doesn't leave room for "othering" children, either, which obviously I'm not a fan of doing.

      And you're absolutely right: it is comforting to know that The Divine sees us as a child, that we needn't stand before Her in pretence or in ostentation or affectations of responsibility, that we can come to God as a child to her parent, crawl into Her lap and be held. Don't we all still long for the security of a parent's embrace. As Julian of Norwich relates of her encounter with God:

      "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well". Where else but in the eternal embrace of The Divine?



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