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Friday, December 28, 2007

Playing with Gravity

Monkeytot has discovered gravity. I don't mean that in the sense that a baby learns that he falls off the couch if he crawls too far. And I certainly don't mean it in the sense that I fear to bend over lest my little joey weigh me down so heavily in front that I can't get back up. I mean that Monkeytot has a new toy, and it happens to be one of the laws of physics.

It began yesterday when she found a mouse ball. Normally, a mouse ball without a mouse isn't good for much except fitting into a totty mouth. But once we'd gotten the saliva wiped off, she discovered something cool: if she set it oh-so-carefully on the edge of a tv tray, it would roll off the side. And she would giggle. And she would pick up the ball and place it carefully in the center of the tray, to see the same result. In fact, wherever she put it on the tray, it rolled over one side or another. And every time, she giggled.

Today, she put it to a greater challenge. This time, she took three plastic rings, the kind that are used to hold toys onto playmat overhangs or mobiles. (They also link together very satisfyingly, and are too big to fit into a mouth.) The challenge is that they don't roll. But they do slide, if put on a surface less flat than a tv tray... like, say, a head.

So she put one ring on her head and watched as it slid off. Delightfully, two and then three rings at a time showed the same results. But one being easier, she eventually settled for putting the one green plastic ring on her head over and over again, to see how far she had to tilt her head to make it slide off, and how still she had to hold her head to make it stay.

And once again, watching a toddler, I learn something about God, and why we are to be like little children. Children, as they learn the laws that govern things, are fascinated. It pleases them to discover that there is a force stronger than their little fingers, and they giggle as they find that they can't disobey the law of gravity... the consequences are too consistent.

Yet adults often view the laws of the universe differently. The Way Things Work is a fearful thing. Giving in to them doesn't make them giggle, it makes them mourn. When the child discovers that an object rolls or slides, she giggles; yet when an adult discovers that sex causes pregnancy or we don't recover our sense of self-worth until we repent, somehow to many it looks like something to mourn. Many adults think that -- or hope irrationally that -- if they refuse to acknowledge those laws of the universe, they won't be bound by them.

The thinking goes something like this: "If I acknowledge God and grace in my life, I have to live by His rules. I don't think I can give up control, so I will just refuse to let Him into my life, and pretend that I do not believe or do not care." But of course, like gravity, the laws of the universe go on working whether we acknowledge them or not. If the toddler believes this time the ball won't roll off the table, it doesn't prevent the ball from rolling off the table. And if the adult convinces himself that sex outside of marriage can be separated from love or procreation without consequences, his soul still gets knocked around; and so does his partner's.

It reminds me of the older child who thinks that if he closes his eyes, we can't see him because he can't see us. The adult closes his eyes to God, thinking that then God cannot see him, and therefore God can be effectively excluded from any influence on the world.

But if one of my children closes his eyes, not only do I continue to see him, but I also continue to love him. God is the same, only far more so. So instead of fighting gravity, closing our eyes, and seeking ways to avoid Him, just as Adam and Eve hid from Him in the garden, why don't we learn to take delight in the Way Things Work? Gravity can be fun, and God continues to love us.