“My friend, both of us at this moment are in the Spirit, you and I.” These pinnacle words from the historic conversation between Nikolay Motovilov and Saint Seraphim of Sarov express a concept awash in my mind as I tend to the care of my granddaughter.
Reactions are numerous, animated, heartfelt and frequent when people see my granddaughter. If I am alone, the reaction is not the same.
I am, largely, the same as most people in this regard. Babies, toddlers, and little kids have an aura to them. As people grow up, the aura does not seem to be there.
What happens? Why can we not see what Saint Seraphim and Motovilov saw?
Can the answer be found in a less obvious reading of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew? “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Is it possible that Jesus is also referring to the little child within us?!
It is the stuff of science, psychology, poetry, art, film, and even iconography; the juxtaposition, conundrum, and challenging reality that has to do with our inner child. These things are worth examining, but I wonder if seeing God or seeing the child in ourselves and others isn’t simpler than we might want to make it be.
If we can recall and be aware of God in an actual little child, then maybe this is the touchstone for seeing a “little one” in grown-ups also.
Maybe we get tripped up when we begin to be hurt by others? Babies do not hurt us. As we grow, we start to hurt ourselves and others. We sin. We fall short. We have foibles. And while free will is certainly involved, there is, at least at first, maybe, a kind of innocence to humanity’s fallen nature. When we see it in toddlers, it can, at times, even be humorous. Imagine a little kid with her arms akimbo, brow furrowed, foot-stomping and insisting on her way. It CAN be funny.
Without minimizing the awesome fear we should have towards God the Father, is it not possible to imagine God being that way towards us, His beloved children?
This sentiment is echoed at the Holy Cross when Jesus blankets mankind with “…forgive them for they know not what they do.”
It is children who do not know any better. Is that not the subtext? As with all things, Jesus shows us how to be. At the Cross He gives us a guide that, I believe, can allow us to see the little children that must “not be hindered” in all of mankind “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” We should “forgive” because, like little children, we don’t know what we are doing.
Whenever Zoe and I are out and about, the reaction is fairly universal and consistent. She is greeted with “O so cute” and “look at those pretty eyes!” ogles and baby talk and fussing and smiles upon smiles. And I absorb this, as does Zoe, as if this is simply the way of the cosmos. People, to quite a large degree, love babies and toddlers. But if we all are infants and toddlers of a sort except that we are in older trappings, then maybe, if we look at each other that way, we can forgive and we can love. And maybe we can begin to see with the eyes of Saint Seraphim.
I hope that I can fuss and coo at myself and at others as God does towards us. I hope I can see God in others as Saint Seraphim did with Motolivov. I hope I can remember how much God loves all of His children. “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” (PS 149)
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