I’m the third of four children. When my mother was pregnant with her fourth, she and my father thought it’d be fun to film our family’s reaction to the news that a baby was on the way.
So they did. The video shows us on the couch. Mom on one end. Dad on the other. My brother and sister in the middle.
Where am I? Right where I belong. Mom’s lap.
So Mom breaks the news and everyone goes wild. Smiles. Hugs. My sister does a cartwheel. Everyone’s over the moon at this ridiculous news. Everyone but me.
“Ryan,” Dad says. “Did you hear what your mother said? She’s going to have a baby.”
“That’s not funny,” I say.
“That’s not funny.”
“Because. I’m the baby.”
I’ve probably watched that video a hundred times. I just can’t believe that fat brat is me.
You’ve done this. There’s some photo or home movie of you that you find endlessly fascinating.
I know this because we all want to know who we are. And we know that if we’re going to know that, we have to first know who we used to be.
Watch the reaction in a child’s eyes when you promise to tell them about the day they were born.
Notice how quiet and still they get.
You know about my past?
You know things I can’t remember?
They’ll hang on every word you say because we all want to know who we are.
I heard a story the other day that I like:
A young couple has two children, a four-year-old and a newborn. One evening they’re putting the newborn to bed when the four-year old says, “I want to talk to the baby!”
“Go ahead,” the parents say. “He’s right here. Say whatever you like.”
“No,” the boy says. “I want to talk to the baby by myself.”
Curious about the request for secrecy, the parents agree. They invite the four-year old into the nursery, place the baby in his crib, and leave the room.
Spying at the door this is what they see and hear:
The boy creeps up to the crib and whispers: “Quick, tell me where you came from. Quick, tell me who made you. I’m beginning to forget.”
I’m beginning to forget.
I often wonder if infants are born with the knowledge of God. There’s something so clear about their eyes. Some people say it’s innocence.
I don’t think so. No one’s innocent. We’re all just little monsters waiting to hatch our evil onto the world. (I’m sorry, I’m just thinking of my own children.)
It’s not innocence. It’s something better.
We all come from God and eventually we all return to God. So it only makes sense that we know something about God on arrival.
This is why everyone loves babies. It’s not because they’re cute. It’s because we sense in them something bigger, something we forget as we age. They know where they’ve come from and they know to whom they belong: Infinite Love.
Children are filled with truth. For better and for worse.
Recently, as I put my son to bed, he said, “Dad, your breath smells for real.”
Children tell the truth because children know the truth.
Often as parents, we obsess over all the “truths” we need to teach our children that we forget they have truth to tell us—truth that comes to light by every little hug, every little grin, and every little kiss. Children ooze with love and knowledge of God.
It’s up to us to notice.
It’s very easy these days to forget from whence we came and to where we are headed. The next time you feel yourself starting to forget, take your child in your arms and look deeply into their eyes. Smell their skin. Kiss their cheek. And then know what they know—you are God’s beloved now and forever.
[Ryan Casey Waller’s new book Broken is available for pre-order here. – Ed.]
When has a child reminded you of God’s love?