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God's Baby Talk

A more personal story today.

Today was Cameron -- my two year old son's -- first day of school...Well, daycare actually, which I guess technically is pre-pre-school...

But as any member of the Los Angeles Paranoid Parents Community (or LAPPC) will tell you, if you don't get in the right waiting line for the right daycare, you can just forget about getting into the right waiting line for the right pre-school, and if you miss that, you set off a series of domino effects that will inexorably lead to your kid at 30 as a sniper in some tower. Who knew that somehow your mythic "permanent record," apparently now begins at age two?

Anyway, getting him ready for the big day was fun, marking the name "CAM" in felt tip pen on anything he could lose, throw, drop or put in odd places. Buying him his first lunchbox, which is now made mostly out of softer materials than they were when I was a kid. I assume so that it hurts less when kids whack each other in the head. Filling out endless forms.

One task in the process though stood out. it was that parents had to hand write a letter to the child, including a picture of the parents, on the very remote chance that there was a disaster -- Earthquakes or Riot or Terrorist act, or whatever -- would separated the daycare from the parents for a while. If that happened the teachers would hand out each letter to each child, and read it to them if they can't read yet.

We're instructed to write positive, encouraging things, about how they should listen to their teachers and how we would all be back together soon. Clearly it's meant for the older kids who can understand words better than Cammy can right now.

My wife and I both wrote to him and I closed the letter with:

"Cammy, be brave and take care of yourself and be good. I miss you so much and I can't wait to see you again really soon, and I love you so much. Your Daddy."

I thought about a lot of things after writing this disaster letter to Cam. I thought about how hard it must be for temporarily or permanently separated families in the Gulf coast. I thought about how alone people can be in the worst sense of that word. And I thought about the Bible, oddly enough.

I think if you don't have a love/hate relationship with the Bible you aren't really reading it. That said, I think that most of the problems I've had with the New and Old Testaments over my time as a Christian -- let's say 80% of them -- have come from my expectation that it was a different kind of book than it was. Expecting it to act like a Holy Encyclopedia -- an Answer book, for example. With that expectation, you are set up to be disappointed that there isn't a chapter on say the Trinity (alphabetized under the "T" section) that specifically calls out everything God has to say about his "Triune" nature. Or that you can't look up in the "S" section and get everything God has to say about Slavery. In many ways I see Scripture as being as much of a "Question Book" as an "Answer Book" now, raising questions to me, helping me literally to "quest" towards a deeper and truer understanding and connection with God.

Similar problems ensue when we think about Scripture as strictly and only a "historical documentary" or "scientific record." I am not saying that the Bible has no "answers," or that it has no "historicity," nor that it has no "scientific accuracy." I believe that the Bible has all those things inside it as gifts of sorts to us.

But I am saying you have to start by understanding the Book by understanding what type of book it is trying to be, versus what it is not trying to be. None of these literary forms (documentary, encyclopedia, scientific essay) existed as we think about them today when the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures we're being created.

Instead, I've come to see the Bible more like the note I wrote to Cameron. A family message from my Abba Father. Like a letter to a child.

Church reformer John Calvin felt something similarly, I think. When he was 26, he wrote the most influential work of his entire life, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. In them he wrote when God speaks to us in the Bible, it is like he has to use "baby talk" to communicate with us. Calvin wrote that God in his Word "lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children."

I'm at my best place with the Bible when I listen to it from that kinda perspective. And I hear some of the same words I wrote to my own boy:

"Be brave"

"Take care of yourself and be good."

"I love you so much"

"I Miss you so much and can't wait to see you again really soon."
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9/08/2005 06:39:00 AM

Ping! Definitely a trackback on this one. There's not a parent out there who can't relate to that. As my sister always says, "That'll preach." I hope your son has a great daycare experience.    

9/08/2005 12:22:00 PM

I'm sorry that my previous comment sounds really flip. I have a tendency to sound that way when I'm in a hurry and I'm trying to keep the comment short. Your post pointed out a way of looking at the bible that I hadn't considered. Thanks for sharing your personal story.    

9/08/2005 04:48:00 PM

Hey Kate,

No worries at all, I thought "that'll preach" to be a big complement... And so far, Cam is having a great time (after a bit of seperation anxiety every morning)... Thanks for the kind words in both comments....


9/08/2005 05:11:00 PM

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.    

9/09/2005 11:33:00 AM

Two year olds are the best teachers. I have learned so much from my son Linus (almost 3). Looking for ways to explain the world to him puts everything in perspective.

If you have doubts about the war, try explaining it to a pre-schooler. "Son, we had to hit Iraq because we thought they might hit us."

You beautifully sum up the Bible in 4 simple sentences. Terrific post

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