By John Rieping | Published 5 July 2014 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
“I would possess a host of lovely things, / But I am poor and such joys may not be. / So God who lifts the poor and humbles kings / Sent loveliness itself to dwell with me.”
— “Wealth,” by poet Joyce Kilmer, killed by a sniper while serving as a U.S. soldier in World War I
Whether boisterous or somber, patriotic holidays invite us to return for a time to the freshness of childhood and see anew the gifts of our communities and nation.
There may be homes beyond counting on this planet, but to toddlers theirs is the first to exist. Nearly seven billion humans live, but those in a babe’s family are to them the first. The morbid statistics of wars numb the mind and heart, but when someone you love as a child returns no more it is our first casualty.
Each child puts the world on trial.
First love, first kiss, etc. On and on a child explores the frontiers of existence until at last the world may seem tame or old, and the colors of our latest joy or grief sit upon or blend with layers of others on the painted canvas of our being, no longer innocent.
So holidays whisper to the aged soul, “Look here,” or, “Forget not.” Those who ignore the invitation fail to sip from an imperfect fountain of youth, for it is not the world that grows old as we live. We do.
In our daily lives, beauty smiles, truth speaks, and goodness gives. Let us not let darker encounters or the mere dullness of repetition blind us to such gifts. Be refreshed and thankful, at least on holidays.
But how much better if we fought to hold onto the best of a childhood spirit even as our energies unavoidably weaken.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged,” writes British author and journalist G.K. Chesterton. “They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.”
Jews and Christians believe in a Creator God who performed the work of creation and then rested — not out of necessity but out of love. This same God, we believe, repeatedly looked at what existed in this infant universe and declared it good and very good (Bereishit/Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
Unlike us, I think God doesn’t tire of saying it either.
“Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony,” Chesterton mused. “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Therein lies a source of Christian hope, for we believe in a God who “makes all things new” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5) — including us if we allow it. Though popular culture prefers to speak of being “wicked,” “bad boys,” or “naughty” as desirable, Christians recognize that innocence renewed means eyes reopened — to the goodness of the world and ourselves.
Of the many joys of existence, one we may forget yet so deeply long for is the knowledge that someone loves us no matter how predictable we may be in hurting ourselves and others.