Dr. Seuss is internationally acclaimed for his life time dedication to the imaginative and understood world of children. I can appreciate this. Personally, I love children. The innocence of a child is something that is both profound and amazing. But we overlook the value of children and their inherit worth. We don’t see what Jesus saw when He said: “let the children come to Me and do not hinder them…”
The more I think about love, the more I realize I have been looking at it the wrong way. Maybe it is just God pressing things into my heart, or maybe I’m just paying attention to more important things. As adults, we falter so much in love because we stop seeing the end in the beginning, but only focus on now. Someone told me a simple question that has revolutionized my approach to romance: as I think about it, approach it, and write it. Here it is…
Would you be proud to have a daughter [son] exactly like her [him]?
How often do we like to justify bad behavior in an attempt to strain out the good in people? I am bad about this in general because I want to find the best in every one, but this question allows me to objectively side step my hopes for who people should be in light of who they are: “yes, you may be an alright woman, but I would not like my daughter to be like you, no thanks.” (that may be a little harsh though, and I’d tell them another way because I’m not a dick).
The chances are good that marriages will produce children, and children will be a mixture of both parts: what they are taught, and who the parents were before the children were born will define the child. This perspective allows us to differentiate between characteristics that are not acceptable and habits that seem annoying at the time, but may be good in the long run. The more I consider this simple question the more I realize what I want from my life and myself. I want to know I am giving my children the absolute best that I am able.
Not only is this good practical advice, but I think it is good Biblical advice as well. it isn’t the only thing we ought look for when we approach another person, but it allows us additional clarity to do the right thing. Not only does it fit what God wants from marriage and what is healthy, but challenges me to become a better man: to work with those in my life with justice and kindness and honors, and deal with everything appropriately.
This has been one of many thoughts recently, but there is more depth then I am willing to go into: half because I have been waiting and thinking, and half because I have been writing, and half because a friend posted “Wait for Me” by Rebecca St. James on facebook and it took me back 2002 (yes, there are three halves, get over it!!). To honor and follow God means that we must be able to filter through the static and hear His voice, to understand what love is and who we choose to allow in our lives, and what He wants from us if He calls us to this path. Push away the world’s perception and corruption of love and return to the innocence and purity of it.
Studying at UNC-Charlotte has afforded me the opportunity to study child development: how they understand the world and how they interact with parents. It has been enlightening and a little revealing to me of gaps in my own life due to the fact that we never really grow up: we just learn to behave in public.
When I was nine, my family lived in a brick home in town in a small neighborhood off the main highway. Ironically, the streets in the neighborhood were named after famous authors and poets over the past two hundred years; I had no idea. These were times when stringing blankets around the deck would become a shelter for a severe Siberian winter, and the floor was completely made of lava. My brother and I would have elaborate funerals for G.I. Joes who were killed in action and I saw my first comet. A little girl lived across the street who believed that if she shouted loud enough that people in airplanes would be able to hear her.
As children, imagination is everything, and almost anything is imagination. Anything can be anything. This is how we start, and most of us lose this ability as we grow older. Well, we don’t lose it, we just start to call our imaginations plans and dreams, and the behaviors that govern them convictions. The rules that govern “the floor is lava” are basically the rules that govern a flight through college, or finding a job: stay on the safe spaces as much as possible and plan your moves. The convictions are honed by family expectations, our beliefs, and past experiences.
Also, children find forms of attachment in their caregivers, which are generally their parents. Children are confident when they are confident in their parents. When situations change or something unknown comes into their vision, they re-establish connection with the parent to be sure that everything is on the up and up. These connections are crucial for young children and they will test them as a means of finding stability in their own identity. “Mom gets mad when I slam the cabinet, so let’s just see if she’ll get mad again.” In fact, consistent behavior in parents is the development of love that a child understands.
I was in Starbucks today and a little boy was getting into everything. He had bright blue eyes and a hat on backwards so nobody cared. He stopped and looked up at me… smiled and gave me a thumbs up. For some reason children like me and gravitate to me. In that moment, I looked at him through the eyes of an adult and saw complexity of eye contact and human interaction, but he looked at me through the eyes of a child with the simple question: can I trust you? I smiled to reassure him and he went about his business.
What we need to take away is the understanding of perspective. Children are closer to innocence then we are. They do not see the world through a lens of broken complexities. They can do anything they imagine and the world is pure, in many cases. This is a form of innocence we must nourish and protect, but also shape. While at the same time understand how it plays into our lives and why we do things. How I behave in a relationship is not all that different from how I would behave as a child, because romance is essentially moving attachments to a new type of family. This can give us great potential for influence and patience in other’s lives; great affect for the greater effect.
We need to learn to step away from how we understand the world. Yes, we grow wise with age, but we cannot lose the spark of innocence that gives us stability so that we are not taken captive by a world of cynicism. Step back and see the world through smaller eyes.