How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
(Psalm 139:17-18 ESV)
Jama and I stayed overnight last night with Tim, Alice, and River (our grandson) in Boston. This morning I am the first one up in the house. Well, not really. River is 6 weeks old today, and he gets up anytime he needs something!
The lectionary this morning was Psalm 139. I haven't printed the whole of it, because it is long. But this phrase in particular jumped out at me.
When River wakes up he knows that Mom or Dad will come and attend to him immediately. This is natural to him. We actually have to learn not to trust. In a family where all things are in order, the child will continue to trust Mom and Dad even as the more difficult lessons of life come. River will learn, as consciousness grows in him, that Mom and Dad are not God, but God is God. For now, though, the thoughts of his parents are precious to him. They are so vast he cannot even conceive of them. He might as well be trying to count sand.
We act very sophisticated sometimes. I'm sure God laughs at it. Last weekend Jama and I went to a traditional Irish session (folk musicians playing around a table in a pub). Sessions are always informal affairs, and in Ireland, very much family affairs. At this particular session there was a small girl, no more than 7 or 8. She spent the entire evening pretending she was one of the performers in Riverdance, I think. In her mind she was the most elegant step dancer that ever was. I told Jama that I thought that when the people at the tables applauded, she must be figuring it is all for her.
That's how we must seem to God when we start spouting theology. It isn't that we have the concepts wrong. We may even have things quite right. It is the quasi-adult attitude with which we come to him that is so humorous. And those of us who fancy ourselves "theologians" are dancing like the little girl, and I think we theologians all expect the people are watching us and that all the accolades are because of our profound thoughts.
Wouldn't it be great if I could regain the innocence of that little girl! Wouldn't it be awesome if I could trust like River does. The girl wasn't actually thinking about the people at all. The beauty of childhood abandon is that it is unpretentious. It is not thought out. There is no reason to it. It is just joyful response. The infant doesn't think, "How precious is my Mother. How vast to me are her thoughts." River simply needs milk or changing or burping. And Mom or Dad (or as often as we can, Grandma and Grandpa) come and supply his need. The supply is as vast as the grains of sand on a seashore! And River has no worries, no concerns. We may assign those emotions to him when he grimaces, but that is anthropomorphizing on our part. I often speak for infants, like in the old movie Look Who's Talking. But River is just trusting with the same abandon with which the little girl danced.
How would I know that I had arrived at that same abandon with God? It wouldn't be because I had some profound theological thought and wrote a best-seller about it. I would know that I had arrived at child-like abandon when, upon awaking in the morning, he was my first thought.
Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
(Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1812-1896)