Childlike delight

There’s a quote from G.K. Chesterton I’d like to share with you:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. 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. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. 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.”

It’s one of the 16 quotes I have pasted up on my wall above my desk where I’m writing this post. I could think about it endlessly.

I wonder if to some of us it sounds oddly irreverent, suggesting that God is like a child, even though he asked us to be like them (Matthew 18). I think his impulse is right, that sin makes us old—in the sense of decayed—and that the regenerating power of the Spirit is new life in the sense of youth.

We should be careful here, we live in an age obsessed with youth in a way that Chesterton didn’t, and it’s also paradoxically true that we are supposed to mature (1 Corinthians 14) through our Christian lives. We’re meant to grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4).

And yet doing so will make us delighted children. There’s something so wonderfully restful about the idea of being able to take pleasure in the same thing over and over again. It’s a sign of the way sin has twisted our tastes and desires that we are unable to do so. Wearying of a good thing is not an indicator that we are healthy. We all do it though: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Not for God, Chesterton tells us. The proof being the world around us, each tree’s trunk is lovingly carved with the finger of the divine hand, with its story written into its core. The snowdrops came up today in our back garden. I saw a few early adopters poke their heads out of the soil when I was on a walk elsewhere two weeks ago. They were my Grandmother’s favourite flower, the first breath of spring while we still sit in Winter’s grip. A fresh, pure, whiteness—each exactly the same. Each, delighted in by the transcendent God.

We might even think it’s irreverent to suggest that the divine Logos, the very ground of being himself (Acts 17) cares about flowers. Except Jesus tells us that he does (Matthew 6). The world is rich in wonder because God cares to show his munificence through the gift of creation.

It also might help us to shake away our sense that ‘of course the Sun will rise tomorrow, it always does.’ It rises because God wills it, because he says “do it again,” in abundant joy. That shouldn’t scare us, as though he might change his mind one day leaving us trapped in eternal night, because God does not change. He is the only constant in the cosmos.

But it might just start to shake us out of our jaded view of the world. Things don’t happen because that’s ‘just how it works,’ they happen because of the will of God. Things don’t fall ‘because of gravity,’ gravity is our name for our observance that when we drop things angels carry them to the ground (Matthew 4).

Scientists might scoff, but honestly I’m just scoffing right back. I know you’re measuring things, but why did you think the magnetism you’re measuring that causes things to reliably accelerate at 9.81 metres per second squared didn’t have a spiritual cause? The ‘spiritual’ world isn’t just hived off for church, and the natural and supernatural aren’t sharply divided arenas that don’t touch each other.

Why do we care? Because our view of the world is too small. Our faith is too tame. We tacitly accept the assumptions of our neighbours that the world is explainable without God. Who cares if it’s ‘explainable,’ as though Ockham’s Razor was a good idea? (I know Ockham was a theologian, but nominalism is silly). It might be explainable, but you’ll have to flatten out all the curves, all the life, all the wonder, and you won’t be left with something that’s actually true.

I have the words of that quotation—actually just the last sentence of it—pasted on my wall to remind me of two things:

My jaded, urban, millennial, cynicism is not godly, instead I should be in wonder at the world like a child.

As St Gregory of Nyssa said, “Concepts create idols, only wonder comprehends anything.”

That’s on the wall too.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

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