Holy Crap: Prayerful Thoughts from the Changing Table
Thanks for joining us once again here on Holy Crap, our completely fictitious weekly blog where the riches of Christ meet the realities of parenting. This week we feature Chris, whose first child, Madeleine, turns eight months old next week. Here is a collection of various thoughts on parenting in the faith that he’s provided for us.
The modern name Madeleine comes from Magdalene of Mary Magdalene fame. This disciple of Jesus is sometimes identified with the woman in the Gospels who washes Jesus’ feet with oil and tears and then sops it all up with her hair. Our Madeleine does not do this. She does, however, like to stick out her tongue and smash her face on outstretched feet. Baby steps, I guess.
A fellow blogger once described caring for children as anti-Gnosticism. It took me some time to understand her point—wouldn’t being routinely splattered with bodily fluids and regurgitated substances only drive a person into hating the material world? It turns out the answer is no. After months of oozing, leaking, and backsplash, you just stop caring. The most disturbing parts of the material world become mundane. I recall hearing that Gnostic cults largely died out. I suppose if your theology makes children too gross to bother with, then your theology won’t be around for too long after you’re gone.
My daughter has just learned to move about on her own. She doesn’t crawl so much as inchworm her way across the floor. She is very quick about it, though, and her curiosity causes her to beeline towards all the things I don’t want to her to touch—our stereo receiver, the recycling bin, a wobbly stool, etc. It’s like she hasn’t even read Genesis.
I saw a picture of my younger self the other day. I had much more hair then. I know for a fact many children love to make fun of baldness; I was one of those children. I have no doubt my thinning scalp will bring similar mockery from my offspring. Elisha once set bears on some lads for mocking his baldness. I wonder if that option is still available to the saints.
I don’t think Maddy needs to hear the story of Mary and Martha until her teens or so. My wife and I have taught this story to Sunday School kids a couple times, and their takeaway seems to be that Jesus doesn’t want you to do chores. The idea that fretfulness impedes entering into the restful presence of God might be a little advanced for children.
At the end of the book of Joshua our titular hero gathers the people of Israel to recount the story of how God delivered the people through various trials and travails. He wraps up the tale with a dramatic declaration: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). This is a true ultimatum, an either-or affair. There is no alternative, even today; everybody worships something, whether God, a career, or even something as abstract as progress. I know which of these fulfills all his promises, and it’s to him we will submit.
We don’t baptize children in the Free Methodist church, instead, we have dedications. I have to admit that dedicating my daughter to the Lord was something of a sad moment. As the pastor prayed over her, it struck me then that she wasn’t mine, not really. She is my flesh and blood, but ultimately she belongs to God. There is a selfish part of me that wants to keep her all to myself, but I can’t—not without destroying both of us.
There are a great many things that to my daughter seem like the end of the world. A toy being just out of reach, a slight bonk of the head on a padded floor, an adult breaking eye contact with her for more than five seconds, a bottle having slightly less milk than she’d prefer, etc.—these are all occasion for an apocalyptic wailing and gnashing of teeth. Most of the times when she begins to cry, I laugh. Her grief is simply not proportionate to the state of reality. Her sense of scale is all out of whack. She seems to have no idea how small her problems are or how easy they are to fix. If only she knew of the greater joys to come and how easy it is to forget those little things that grieve us in our youth, she might tone down the screaming a bit. I imagine God regards us in much the same way; if only we realized the good things to come, our concerns and troubles in this world would be nothing.
Thanks again for joining us on Holy Crap. Next time, we’ll be joined by Conciliar Post Editor-in-Chief, Ben Cabe, who will share his method for teaching toddlers patristics using just breakfast cereal and an acoustic guitar.