She looks up at me from the crook of my elbow, the perfect distance for newly developing eyesight according to some researcher. Mothers already know this. She locks eyes with me, I am looking at my granddaughter and also at God. Not the “Strong take care of everything control the world ” God but the “tiny vulnerable captivate your soul” God. My God is sometimes the Father but more often the Child, He comes to me through the children who show me grace and love unconditionally. Is it any wonder that women flock to hold a baby even in the midst of the burdens of their own family? It grows ever harder to see the God in us all as we grow: we are needy and wanting and not always very nice. We don’t smell so good and look so sweet. Yet it is ever so clear staring into the eyes of a baby, God is here.
Still, babies cry and want fed and have to be changed and are highly inconvenient, the backstory you forget when you are a grandma who only has visits or a young woman longing for her first child. Those God moments can be more rare in the trenches. But isn’t that the same with our God? Surely our sins bring screams of agony to our Father, cries that cannot be calmed much like a baby with colic, requiring hour after hour of pacing each evening. I can only imagine God’s pure pain at the hate rising up in our world, the violence and separation, the refusal to tend to our neighbors. God is crying, a neglected babe alone.
Can you envision God’s cries as we feed our guilty pleasures, our addictions, fill our time with social media and leave Him starving for our attention, forgetting that time with Him feeds us too? Long walks noticing creation, baking bread, real honest to God knead the dough and let it rise bread, arranging colors on canvas with intentionality, all are answers I have received when asked “How do you feel closer to God.” The commonality in the responses is time creating and time apart, maybe from others but certainly from regular life. I believe retreating and creating is when we feed God, when He feeds us. Our souls become open to his nurturance.
Scripture reminds us that God is the same, yesterday today always. But we live in a changing world that requires our involvement. We live in a broken hurting world that demands our engagement. This world is God’s, we are His. To ignore the damage is to ignore the baby with the sopping diaper, soon to have a rashy bottom, soon to be blistered and the agony magnified. We are the ones called to do the changing, to tend to all of God’s children. The ones who have been left neglected the longest may smell badly, have the worst sores and scream loudly when we get near. They certainly don’t present as cuddly babies but imagine how long they have waited for our attention? Like a child with diaper rash, one swipe of ointment won’t fix it. We have to be attentive, we have to keep at it. Closed wounds don’t heal themselves. Homeless don’t find homes, hungry don’t grow food, slaves don’t gain freedom alone.
God is inconvenient. I know He does not make my life any easier. My list of those who have angered me and should be scorned forever, cast into the Dungeon of Non-Forgivables grows shorter as I grow closer to God. I try to bring that list to Him, asking for a smiting, a spell that would do Harry Potter proud but come away we another name crossed off as I lose my own fire. I want to stay mad sometimes. I want to hold on sometimes. Inconvenient. I have another list, a list of topics I will not address in public or mixed company so as not to offend. This one is meeting a similar fate. Rather than disappearing in resolution or forgiveness, this list burns within me and God demands that I speak up. God demands that I begin to talk for those who are not present. God demands that voices rise up to confront hate and bigotry and lies. God demands that this list grow and it is inconvenient for me to get louder.
It is inconvenient for me to follow a God who sees our broken world, my hurting home, my addicted son, my estranged daughter, my grandson who cries for his favorite aunt and wonders when he will see his dad again, how can I follow a God who doesn’t fix all these things? NOW. Then I look into the eyes of this babe and know that He gives me her, a way to see Him. A reminder that He is here, He is near, I just need to keep walking and rocking and working on my lists. With each of her cries and diaper changes, I know I am called to act on her behalf out in the wider world. She is God. Hungry, messy, inconvenient. I pace with her in my arms, pat her bottom as she falls asleep, and thank God for visiting my soul.