Babies are sacramental.
Currently, while my search for gainful employment marches on, I am babysitting an almost-4-month-old baby named Ophelia. Ophelia is very cute; her mom calls her a “Gerber baby.” We listen to Raffi, play in the jolly jumper, play on Monkey Island, play in the exersaucer, go for walks, read books, and other suchlike activities. There are also dirty diapers, naps, and refusals to consume much milk when it comes from a bottle in Matthew’s hands. And the occasional crying fit.
Outside of this being “Daddy Training” and a little cash until something more lucrative comes along, I think this is also an opportunity to enter into the presence of the living God. These thoughts come because I was doing some reading and thinking about mysticism in preparation for tonight’s abortive small group study of Evelyn Underhill (only one person showed up).
Today, Ophelia was getting a little tired of sitting in the Bumbo with her giraffe Sophie, so I thought I’d put her in the Jolly Jumper. The Jolly Jumper was not yet hanging in the appropriate doorway, so I had to put her somewhere while I got the thing rigged up. The crib was out of order (the crying no doubt meant, “I don’t want a nap!”), so I lay her down in Monkey Island where she contented herself with a mirror and various hanging toys.
She was so entranced by her own cute face I decided to pass on the Jolly Jumper for the time being and relish the presence of a happy, gurgling, giggling, flailing (jerky arm and leg motions expressing joy) baby.
I sat down on the floor near Monkey Island and spent the time in prayer, intentionally entering into the awesome presence of the Divine. I sat for a while, just seeking to be with the Creator. And I prayed for my wife, for Ophelia and her parents, for various people I know. Sometimes I just sat looking at Ophelia and was glad to be sitting in a room with a content baby. I sought in her simple happiness something of the deep joy that lies in God alone.
Later, while she napped, I spent some time meditating on the idea of God being holy thus we should be holy. I sought to pray with the advice given by Underhill in today’s reading (use your mind, your emotion, and your will).
Of course, what about those other times? To be sacramental is to be a vehicle of God’s grace. What about when Ophelia cries and cries, and I have no idea what to do? What about dirty diapers? What about briefer moments of crying?
I think that the responsibility for the happiness and well-being of another human being brings the invisible grace of God close to us; we’re just usually unaware because we are so caught up in the person at hand. The one day whereupon I could not get Ophelia happy, all I could do was pray. But even when this is not conscious, simply seeking to help another, to help someone who is fully dependent upon you, brings the grace of selflessness. God will convey his goodness to you through those moments wherein you are very busy looking after another human being and consciously seeking Him.