The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

August 24, 2008

Lessons From A One-Year-Old

Dear Sophianna

I have discovered only one guideline for writing a Blog (other than your Aunty’s guideline which says all my posts are “way too long!”) The guideline I read somewhere says, “Do not talk about your children.” I am your paternal grandfather; so you are not “my child.” And I am not going to write about you; I am going to write to you.

I write to you today of course because on August 24, 2007, you made your appearance at the Victoria General Hospital. Today you are one year old. Fifty-four years ago today I arrived in the King’s Daughters Hospital in Duncan thirty-seven kilometers north of Victoria. It is a special joy for me that we share the same birthday, even though this year you are far away in Salmon Arm celebrating your first birthday and your Aunty’s wedding.

It has been quite a year for you. You have learned so much. A year ago your life skills consisted of nursing, sleeping and messing a diaper. Now you can eat solid food (blueberries are your favourite!), almost walk on your own, carry on long detailed conversations in your own mysterious unintelligible language and distinguish the faces of family and friends. You know how to stir with a spoon in a saucepan and how to exert your determined little will to make anyone available hold your hands while you walk where you want to go.

But more than all the things you have learned in the past year, I am grateful for the things you have taught me, or perhaps reminded me of, since your arrival. There are things I see in you that I vaguely sense I once knew in myself but now seem to have lost.

Sometimes when you are visiting our house, I carry you outside in the garden. You look at the world with such intensity and wonder. For you everything is new, exciting, fascinating. Life is fresh and you want to experience it all. You reach out to feel the rough bark of the tree. You touch the soft petals of every flower you can get your hands on. You stay completely still as you watch the birds at our suet feeder.

I must once have had that same wonder in the face of the beauty of God’s creation. But, now there are so many important things to do. I look at the garden and see weeds that need to be pulled, plants to water, a lawn to cut. Everything carries a burden of responsibility and demand. You do not carry this heavy load and so you are free to be completely open to whatever is just as it presents itself to you. Perhaps in this you are more like Jesus than your old Grandpa. Jesus told his followers to “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” (Luke 11:27)

You don’t toil or spin but “I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like” you. I am surprised every time I see you by your beauty. It is not manufactured, not something you try to put on or create. The beauty in you comes naturally from the purity of your heart and the unspoiled nature of your being. May you always know that you do not have to “toil or spin” to be beautiful. The more you are able simply to stay open to the person you naturally are, the more the beauty that is born in you will be visible for all to see.

I have been reading a book called Christophany written by a man named Raimon Panikkar. In this book Panikkar imagines God asking him, “Hast thou forgotten that thou art ‘beautiful, graceful, painted in my heart?’” I need to remember that the beauty, purity, grace and innocence I experience in you are not in you alone. These qualities also live in me. In me they are a little more covered up, a little more hidden, harder to see than in you. But, the beauty in you is my true nature. The more I open to that reality deep within myself, the more I will be the person God created me to be.

Openness is the lesson I experience most of all when I am with you. It is not so much anything you do, or perhaps it is everything you do, mostly it is something that happens inside of me, when you are around. When we are together, I find in myself a softness, purity and light that is who I most truly am. I touch in myself that original innocence that is so clearly displayed in you and most nearly reflects the reality of God in your life.

When I open to that place in myself that is most closely connected to God, it becomes easier for me to open to other people. I am better able to trust, to receive the other in all of their otherness. Then I am able to see more clearly the beauty that is also in every other human being.

When I stay in that place that I touch when you are around, I find myself less frightened, less intimidated by life. This must be why Jesus said, “unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) The “kingdom of heaven” is the kingdom of trust and faith. It is the kingdom in which I have nothing to hide, nothing to protect. When I enter the “kingdom of heaven” I discover that there is in me something stronger and more real than all those threatening possibilities that seem to lurk around every corner in the road when I lose touch with the presence of God in my heart.

You have not yet discovered all the things you will eventually find to make yourself feel fearful. You do not, for the most part, feel threatened and anxious about life. You are still free. You live in that original beauty of the “image of God” in which we were all created but from which we become so tragically separated. You make me want to stay in touch with that gift of purity, goodness, light and truth which you remind me come into the world at the birth of every child.

In fifty-four years I have traveled a long way from that pure face of love that is God’s image in me. You make me want to turn again and embrace that pure innocent child I once was and who still lives in me. You make me want to get over my petty fears and obsessive anxieties. But, most important of all, you remind me that there is a truth, strength, light and power that can enable me to live as a child and walk in the love and light that is our true nature.

Thank you for all you teach me. May you always stay connected to the loving presence of God that is your true nature.

Happy Birthday Sophianna! I love you,


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