Recently I was thinking (always a potentially dangerous thing to do)…about my little boy…and about Children in general. To be specific, I was thinking about the way in which they are so utterly driven by the aesthetic sense of life (touch, taste, discovery, etc.). In many ways, we look at this aspect of children as, while being cute and normal for children, ultimately something we anticipate them to grow out of. We look forward to the day when we no longer need to deal with the inconvenience of messes or the constant monitoring of where the kids are wondering off to now or what the kids are sticking in their mouths! When properly disciplined, children reach a stage when they no longer need to hold back the urge to make a mess or stick a rock in their mouth because by virtue of training and discipline, they exclude those options by default habit (kind of like when we, or at least a good majority of us, stop at a red light or stop sign). The tragedy of this, however, is that sometimes I believe our parental desire to see children grow out of this risky aesthetic playfulness (in some cases) produce a kind of unhealthy discipline — a denial of the goodness of play and sense, a denial in other words of the aesthetic enjoyment of life in the name of order and structure. In many ways, I think our desire to limit or discipline children into aesthetic-limited habits, while at times certainly positive and healthy (ie. some sense of schedule, greater safety, limiting enjoyment to healthy levels), can negatively shape their view of the world as a world created for the enjoyment of it (ie. “if you ever want to “get” anywhere in the world, you need to know how to reject the enjoyment of “now” to get it all “later”.)
Furthermore, I began to think about how our images of God tend to be primarily parental images and how this in turn re-enforces our idea that growing out of “childish” ways of being is what’s best in the long run. We think of God (primarily) as Father and if you are lucky, you have some services or liturgies that (rightly) honor God also as Mother. However, I do not think that I ever recall hearing God described as Child. “God is Father” and so we think of God as the absolute source both of discipline and protection. “God is Mother” and so we think of God as supreme nurturer and comforter. But “God is Child”? This we do not really know how to respond to.
However, it might be surprising that some of the earliest Christian creeds, at least according to my interpretation, present God as childish. In particular, the Christian doctrine of Creation says that God created all that is out of NO NECESSITY. I translate this as: God created all things for the “fun” of it all. This makes sense when you look outside in the extreme variety and excess of all that exists…and it makes sense when you look into the eyes of your own child inventing, playing, and laughing as he/she sees what he/she has done. Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart puts this in a more exquisite way than I can:
“The Bible…depicts creation at once as a kind of deliberative invention (“Let us make…”) and, consequently, as a kind of play, a kind of artistry for the sake of artistry. This is expressed with exquisite delicacy by the figure of Wisdom in the book of Proverbs, at play like a small child before the eyes of God, as his delight in all his works; and expressed equally gracefully by the image of the stars singing and the angels rejoicing at creation in the book of Job.” p.251 The Beauty of the Infininte: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth
This above quote I think nicely summarizes some of the thrust of the Louie Giglio video Kara brought us to watch in church this last Sunday. God’s greatness and indescribable nature is not just in His/Her parental power to create and order vast universes, but also in His/Her childish play in creating such a vast, indescribable, and may I dare say at times even silly (in the positive sense), creation. So, today I challenge us to ponder the “Childishness of God”.