the simple grace of loving

christianwiman

Poet Christian Wiman:

“There are other moments, too, which are simply moments of life. Simply! I think of the poet Paul Eluard: “There is another world, but it is in this one.” I have 3-year-old twin daughters. It would be disingenuous in the extreme for me to pretend that they don’t at times drive all thought of God out of my head and make me want to write a series of sonnets in praise of celibacy, but it would be equally insane for me not to acknowledge that they are the source of my greatest happiness. Father Zossima, in The Brothers Karamazov, defines hell as “the inability to love.” I have known that hell, and I should probably spend my remaining days thanking God that I am free of it.”

When my wife was pregnant for the first time, a friend who had just the year before had his first child, was trying to tell me how great it was to have kids. He said, “It’s amazing. You are filled with so much love.” 

I’ve since thought many times of the simple, surprising truth in this: that one of the greatest graces in life (what makes parenthood so “amazing”) is not anything your children give you or do for you. Rather, it is the gift of being filled full of love for someone else. (And of course, you need not have children to know this kind of other-focused love.)

To learn this is to somehow draw near to the beating heart of all reality. To never learn this – to never know this – is an unspeakable loss.

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laying down lines towards the unexplored country

Charlotte Mason:

“Just as it is on the whole easier for the locomotive to pursue its way on the rails than to take a disastrous run off them, so it is easier for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines at his peril. It follows that this business of laying down lines towards the unexplored country of the child’s future is a very serious and responsible one for the parent. It rests with him to consider well the tracks over which the child should travel with profit and pleasure; and, along these tracks, to lay down lines so invitingly smooth and easy that the little traveller is going upon them at full speed without stopping to consider whether or not he chooses to go that way.”

to illustrate incomparable mercy

John Cassian (360 – 435):

“And if we may illustrate the incomparable mercy of our Creator from something earthly, not as being equal in kindness but an illustration of mercy:

if a tender and anxious nurse carries an infant in her bosom for a long time in order sometime to teach it to walk, and first allows it to crawl, then supports it that by the aid of her right hand it may lean on its alternate steps;  presently leaves it for a little and if she sees it tottering at all catches hold of it and grabs at it when falling;  when down picks it up, and either shields it from a fall or allows it to fall lightly, and sets it up again after a tumble;  but when she has brought it up to boyhood or the strength of youth or early manhood, lays upon it some burdens or labors by which it may be not overwhelmed but exercised, and allows it to vie with those of it’s own age – 

how much more does the heavenly Father of all know whom to carry in the bosom of His grace and whom to train to virtue in His sight by the exercise of free will. And yet He helps him in his efforts, hears him when he calls, leaves him not when he seeks Him, and sometimes snatches him from peril even without his knowing it.”

The Witness of Bearing Children

Peter Berger explaining his hypothesis as to why religious people have more children than secular people (here):

For a believing Jew, Christian or Muslim, the future of the world, his own future, and that of his children lies in the hands of a compassionate God. Every mother, of any faith or of no faith at all, will get up in the night to comfort a crying child. She may not speak. Her presence and her holding the child may be enough comfort. If she does speak, it is likely to be some variation of saying “everything is all right” or “everything will be all right”. This may well be true at the moment. In a purely secular perspective, these formulas are finally not true. The mother, the child, and everyone and everything they care about are fated to perish. Religious faith gives a cosmic validation to the mother’s comforting words. It is no accident that the most famous lines of Julian of Norwich, that elusive medieval mystic, are reminiscent of a lullaby: “And all will be well. And all will be well. And every manner of thing will be well”.

Which is reminiscent of something Stanley Hauerwas has already written (in Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony):

We have children as a witness that the future is not left up to us and that life, even in a threatening world, is worth living—and not because ‘Children are the hope of the future,” but because God is the hope of the future.

If we lack good reasons for having children, we also lack good reasons for deciding not to have them. Christians are free not to have children not because of most contemporary rationales (‘I don’t want to be tied down.’ ‘I would not bring children into this messed up world.’), but because we believe in the power of God to create a people through witness and conversion rather than through natural generation. The church must be created new, in each generation, not through procreation but through baptism.

It is our privilege to invite our children, and other’s children, to be part of this great adventure called church. Christians ought to ponder what an amazing act of faith it was for Jews in the face of constant and death-dealing Christians and pagan persecution to go on having babies. People of God do not let the world determine how they respond to tomorrow.

Afraid of the Clown

From the question and answer section of “Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy“, a book for parents published in 1976:

The Letter:

Dear Doctors:

I have a problem of fear in a usually fearless boy who is just Three. When he was about a year old we gave him a clown that rolls back and forth, with a very realistic face and eyes that roll. At first he seemed a little afraid of it, but soon he seemed happy enough. In fact, for a time he liked it so much that he carried it around.

A few evenings ago we saw a TV program about a circus. There was some violence in the picture. A knife thrower was trying to kill some other man, and although he wasn’t dressed as a clown, there were clowns in the play.

I don’t know if that caused it, but the next evening our son said, ‘The clown is going to hurt me.’ His daddy told him no, that the clown was just like any other dolly. This morning the first thing he said was something about the clown.

I thought about burning the clown before his eyes, but perhaps that would be too dramatic. We are going to leave soon for a vacation with his grandma. Would it be best to take the clown along or to leave it at home?

From the doctors’ answer:

You seem to have made several mistakes. In the first place, the clown seems a somewhat dubious choice as a play

object for a little boy. Second, a child of his age should not be watching knife throwing and other violence – people trying to kill other people – on television. We would definitely screen his TV viewing from now on. He is a sensitive child and appears to be extremely vulnerable to this kind of stimulation.

Burning the clown would indeed be too dramatic. It might lead to a fear of fires as well as a fear of clowns…

Remorseless sociopaths

From The Onion, of course:

MINNEAPOLIS—A study published Monday in The Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry has concluded that an estimated 98 percent of children under the age of 10 are remorseless sociopaths with little regard for anything other than their own egocentric interests and pleasures. According to Dr. Leonard Mateo, a developmental psychologist at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study, most adults are completely unaware that they could be living among callous monsters who would remorselessly exploit them to obtain something as insignificant as an ice cream cone or a new toy.