Desire: Our Earliest Language
Desire is primal: to be human is to want. Consider that wanting is the earliest language we learn. As infants, when we’re yet incapable of forming words on our tongue, we’re infinitely good at knowing what we want—and, for that matter, getting it. And if desire is as innate as I describe, it means that wanting, as part of the human experience, is not to be rejected but embraced.
I don’t mean to say that we should model our lives of wanting on the red-faced screaming of a baby who’s hungry, needs her diaper changed or has lost her pacifier, which her mother, on the basis of principle, refuses to retrieve. There are better ways of communicating and healthier means of expression.
Taken from Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel Copyright (c) 2014 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
Managing the Big Battalions of Life
A century ago, men were following with bated breath the march of Napoleon and waiting feverishly for news of the war. And all the while in their own homes, babies were being born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles. In one year, there stole into a world a host of heroes. Gladstone was born in Liverpool, England, and Tennyson at Somersby. Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Massachusetts.
The very same day of that same year, Charles Darwin made his debut at Shrewsbury. Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath in Old Kentucky, and music was enriched by the birth of Felix Mendelssohn in Hamburg. But nobody thought about babies. Everybody was thinking about battles.
Yet, which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies that were born in 1809? We fancy that God can only manage His world through the big battalions of life, when all the while He is doing it through the beautiful babies that are being born into the world. When a wrong wants righting, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants opening, God sends a baby into the world to do it. And where do you find God on Christmas? In a manger. A baby was born at the heart of the Roman Empire, that when the Roman Empire would crumble and fall, that baby, who would become a man,
The Original Sin of a Newborn
Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it: his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toys, his uncle’s watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He’s dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no developed skills.
This means that all children, not just certain children but all children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free-reign to their impulsive actions to satisfy each want, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist.
The Minnesota Crime Commission, Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology 18, no. 1(May 1927)
Returning to Joy
Ideally, when a baby is born into a healthy family, she is received with gladness. Her parents look on her with delight and the baby responds with joy. The baby is wanted—is loved. Her parents will make sure she has enough to eat, keep her warm and dry, cuddle her, sing to her, hold her, and play with her.
All along the baby’s brain is awash in positive neurological activity, activating parts of the brain especially wired to trigger joy in response to other people. Every time the baby feels connected to someone who loves her, she grows stronger in her identity through the experience of joy. By the time she is three months old, she will have images of her delighted caregiver’s face firmly planted in her brain. These wordless images become the foundation for her identity.
When she becomes distressed, her caregiver is there—even if just as a memory. From comfort to a difficult situation and back to comfort, the baby’s neural pathways are learning how to return to the joy of connection amid distress. This process can be called “returning to joy.”
Taken from Does God Really Like Me?: Discovering the God Who Wants to Be With Us by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw Copyright (c) 2020 by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
A Rude Awakening
We greet the world with a cry and a scream, with clenched fists grasping after what we so desperately need. None of us remember the shock and drama of being born, but have you seen a baby’s birth? I recall the moment when my wife, Lisa, gave birth to our
first child, Hailey. Hailey was warm and safe inside her mother’s body. Everything she needed came through a tube into her belly. Then suddenly she was thrust into a cold, harsh world, naked, gasping for breath, and bombarded by bright lights and loud noises. Red-faced and crying, she squeezed her tiny fists in protest.
Our brains are wired to detect danger. Primal anxiety keeps us alive at birth. The fight-or-flight response activates the amygdala, increasing heart rate and blood sugar levels, giving a temporary boost of energy to react. But when our brains become flooded with adrenaline, we can’t think clearly, and it’s hard to calm down. That’s why a baby needs a caregiver’s soothing voice and touch. An anxious response can be activated even when there isn’t imminent danger-by the sound of a car alarm or when a loved one is late and doesn’t call. Our constant scanning for potential danger can result in hyperarousal
and chronic stress. An instinct, designed to keep us alive, can quickly become a threat to well-being.
Taken from The Ninefold Path of Jesus: Hidden Wisdom of the Beatitudes by Mark Scandrette Copyright (c) 2021 by Mark Scandrette. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com