God Speaks In Baby Talk ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, January 14, 2008

God Speaks In Baby Talk

When I look Asher in the eyes and listen carefully, I'm often struck by what he says.

Me: "Hey little guy, what's going on?"
Asher: "Gwah!"

And he puts such feeling into that one syllable. The temptation to respond in a similar vein is very strong, and to be honest, I have to admit that I've spent considerable time talking to Asher in his own language. But at the same time, I'm aware that children learn to talk more quickly when people speak to them with real words and real sentences, and without disgustingly sappy enunciation. So I suppose the way of wisdom is to talk to kids as if they are intelligent beings, using real words (at least some of the time)--but the simplest words possible.
Luther said, "When God speaks to humanity, God always speaks in baby talk." And I think he almost got it right.

So instead of saying, "If you don't put down that pizza cutter and step away from the dishwasher right now, which you have cleverly unlatched through a combination of brains and sheer defiance, I will hang you upside-down by your big toes until you expire," I say, "Aidan, put that down now!"

It seems to work OK most of the time.

This whole topic got me thinking about the way that God communicates with us. Luther said, "When God speaks to humanity, God always speaks in baby talk." And I think he's partly right. What I have to conclude is that God's revelation via the Bible is mid-level baby talk.

If it were pleasant nonsense of the kootchie-kootchie-koo variety, we'd come away from the scriptures smiling and comforted but with no new understanding, no moral impulses, no kicks in the rear. Baby talk makes no attempt to change the child in question, immersing him instead in a warm pool of love and affirmation. God's revelation does this too. Sometimes. But at other times God's word kicks like a mule.

That's what makes me think that God, in his infinite mercy, has taken path of revelatory tension, which is also the path of greatest grace. God doesn't speak happy gibberish to us (like some liberals), affirming our self-hood and assuring us that all is well. And he doesn't detail the mysterious depths of heaven's workings, which are completely beyond us in this world. Instead, he tells us what we need to know in simple language we children can understand.

He is teaching us what the eternal world is really like, with immense patience training us to speak. Someday we'll be more fully grown, and understand that what he has told us, as well as what he has not told us, make him our wisest and most loving Father.

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife