God’s engagement with the world is often portrayed as a “one and done” type of relationship. When we teach Creation, for example, we give the impression that on the seventh day God rested with a sigh of relief that a big job was well done. “Thank goodness,” God thinks, “I can check that off my to-do list!” The same can be said of God’s Incarnation, the entry into the world of human existence by the divine Creative Presence itself. We celebrate the birth of Christ as if Incarnation were a one-time event. From that first Christmas onward, we seem to believe that God is resting on his laurels, never again to descend into intimate participation with the lived experience of human beings.
A Very Human Spirituality
Children are living proof that the very opposite is true. They reveal that God’s Creation and Incarnation are ongoing affairs. It is no exaggeration to say that God enters into human existence with a torrent of creative power every time a child is born. To understand the powerful presence of the divine in the life of children, we need not reach for some abstract, theological or other-worldly explanations. The Creative Force that is our God is present in the very human reality of how children grow, learn and become adults who are perfectly suited to the time and place into which they were born.
Pride requires that a rather obvious fact be stated openly: As amazing and competent as you are, you did not spring fully formed from your mother’s womb. Who you are is the product of the creative force that animated the child you were. Children have one job, and it is a task they are perfectly equipped to perform. They use the raw materials of the world around them much like an artist uses found materials to create something entirely new. People, language, food, customs, beliefs and practices form the environment in which children live and supply the raw materials for their work. All children, including your child-self, absorb the influences of their environment and in a creative alchemy that is rarely acknowledged, create their adult selves.
I encourage you to seek out a young child between the ages of birth and six years old. If you can put aside your pre-conceptions about this age, what you will see will amaze you. Children love the world. Everything is new, of course, and therefore deeply fascinating. They delight in all the things we take for granted, from the working of each of our senses and muscle groups to the joy of making someone laugh. What often escapes our notice is that each of these little engagements with the world is an act of creation, shaping their bodies and forming their personalities.
God’s Work is Never Done!
What fills me with wonder is that the normal relationship adults have to the world is radically inverted in childhood: while we act upon the world, shaping and molding it to our will, for children the world is actually incarnating itself in them. The creative force that created the world is actively creating still. It is not dormant, idle, or withdrawn. It is dancing with joy, flowing in and through children who are the living breathing incarnation of the Divine Presence taking eternal delight in the work of creation.
If you are longing for an encounter with God, for some evidence that God is still engaging with human beings, look to children. You will discover that the story of Creation in Genesis is not a story with an ending, but a radically new kind of story that consists of an ongoing beginning without end. The God-force that animates the universe incarnates relentlessly, extravagantly in every child that is born into this world.
To truly worship God with hearts aflame with humility and gratitude, adults must learn to treasure, protect and nurture the divine presence in each and every child. For then the children will become our teachers, opening our hearts to the reality of God among us. What a different place the world would be if that were so.
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