Perhaps this is a distraction unique to the solemnly-stodgy liturgical denominations, those in the odd habit of sitting in pews and looking forwards. I mean, of course, Distraction By Baby. There you are, happily staring down the liturgy, when over the shoulder in front of you rises a cherubic glitter of eyes and cheeks, some gurgle of joy or hunger – who knows which is which – and you are left with a conundrum. Baby or God?
But of course, such a distraction is never really a distraction, and there exists no such conundrum between a baby and God. Babies, after all, are the most beautiful things in the world. Therefore, one might as well gaze upon a baby as a work of stained-glass in order to lift his heart to the Creator. I understand it’s a strike against my writing career that I only ever quote the same writer, but whatever, let Gilbert talk:
But the humorous look of children is perhaps the most endearing of all the bonds that hold the Cosmos together. Their top-heavy dignity is more touching than any humility; their solemnity gives us more hope for all things than a thousand carnivals of optimism; their large and lustrous eyes seem to hold all the stars in their astonishment; their fascinating absence of nose seems to give to us the most perfect hint of the humour that awaits us in the kingdom of heaven.
I cannot help but agree, these midget creatures destroy depression faster than a handle of Walker Percy’s favorite bourbon.
So there I was, in divinely inspired and rapt contemplation of a baby. Actually, it was a child-toddler-young thing with a few teeth and spacial-awareness. Regardless, I was watching this child squirm in his father’s lap, and I noticed something strange. The father had him pinned across the belly with a big, strong carpenter’s arm, covered in that manly fleece of hair that as a child I was always fascinated by – and am still at least mildly jealous of, though I have no doubts in my eventual attainment of manhood – full of the veined, muscled strength of a father. What was interesting was that the child was certainly straining, one would hardly argue that, but he was not straining to be free of his father. He’d squirm against the strong arm, look up at his father’s face and smile. He’d squirm again. He tried no new tactics, no slipping under his father’s arm, no new and original squirm. He just repeated the same motion of pushing against his father’s arm, feeling the resistance of it, and settling back in his father’s lap, smiling. The father paid no mind; he simply held his child.
The beauty of the thing was articulated thousands of years ago, by the Psalmist who said, “Your law is my delight.” As human beings, we want rules. We want freedom, of course, but we’d most especially like rules that allow us to be specially free. The Moral Law, when lived all around, keeps us free from fear. When lived by ourselves, it frees us from the slavery of addiction to sin. We push and strain, sure, but there is great joy in the strong arm of our Father, that embraces us and says, “no further, lest you lose your freedom and joy.”
The modern world would have the Father move his arm and let the child run off into the crowd. “Don’t pressure us with your morality!” they cry, pressuring us with that peculiar morality of relativism. But this I guarantee. Had the father in front of me moved his arm and allowed the child to slip off his lap, the child would have clambered back on again. If he were to never, ever impose his strong arm, the child would not have a father, nor the father a child, and neither would feel any more joyful, and neither any more free. Let us be delighted then, by the law of our God, who demands of his children all sorts of contradictions to the demands of the modern world. He asks for faith, hope and love, for instance, as well as His tougher requests for monogamy, purity and obedience. Let’s shock the world by remaining in His arms.