“Look at him looking at you.”
Looking down his face was pure love – his proud smile was ear to ear – his eyes locked on mine. Wow!
Nineteen months old. We see him everyday. Grandparent childcare. Me with my full-time WFH upstairs and Nana with her full-time Nana-care downstairs. Little Teddy loved unconditionally 24/7 by his parents, four-year old brother, extended family and friends, and us grandparents.
This morning I was collecting a present for Mrs Paul and our other daughter. Vegan treats of indulgence. A rare morning walk into town during office hours – coinciding with Nana walking Teddy through town (or “buggy-ing him” around town would be more accurate). A normal day for Nana and Teddy. A rare day for me to be out and about.
I had texted Mrs Paul, “Greggs?” And the reply, “Where are you?” Geography soon sorted out, we both headed to Greggs from opposite directions. A cup of coffee and bacon sandwich for me, the same for Mrs Paul (minus the bacon sandwich obviously). We met on the High Street. A squeal of delight from Teddy at this unexpected meeting (still too young for Whatsapp and texting). Followed by loud yowls of discontent and crocodile tears as I greeted Mrs Paul pushing the buggy first. Soon lifted out of the buggy and happy in my arms we went and had our coffees with a crumbly biscuit for Teddy.
What a fabulous change from the usual morning sat at a desk and computer upstairs!
Then the ten minute stroll home. And Teddy reluctantly back in his buggy craning his neck to make sure I was still there. So I stretched out my hand to him and his finger stretched back nd lodged within. And home we walked. Teddy happily finger-in-hand, and me heart-melted alongside. Nana scoffed a little, “Spoilt rotten, Grandad! Spoilt rotten!” But then this moment of moments, “Look at him looking at you.” That furnace of unconditional love. And my melted heart became an instant puddle on the pavement! Who was spoilt rotten? Neither of us … both of us … does it really matter … do I really care?
We have six grandchildren. Teddy is the youngest of our five-a-side team (plus reserve). Yet today was, for me, a first. I can’t ever remember walking finger-in-hand alongside a buggy – totally at peace with the world – a wee one totally at peace alongside. I can’t remember when this became normal. Yet I still see that face of love beaming up at me. And I know it may last another 6-12 months before faux-grown-up mindset takes over. Yes, he will still enjoy me being around, giving shoulder-rides, playing football, trips out, all the “growing up stuff” we all went through. And yes, the bond will be strong and deep. But the “normal” of that stroll home today … the normal of that finger-in-hand by a buggy … that beaming face of total love … all of that “normal” … ?
That’s for babies.
I think of the bible. Of the bible stories. How “babies” don’t really figure unless it is The Heavenly Babe himself. Of the “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 Of how we focus on teaching our “little children” those same bible stories so they may be saved and become good Christians.
And today I wonder … why I wasn’t allowed to be finger-in-hand knowing no stories, not knowing whose face was beaming at who, instead being taught love with conditions to be saved from … what exactly? From being the me I was born to be? Being taught to become instead the me I was taught I should be? The one who fits in, has to be taught how to love, how to be saved, how to pray, how to worship, how to be correct in my beliefs and bible.
The same bible stories that tell of the one who strays rather than the ninety-nine who don’t. The one who screws-over everyone before returning to the fold. The one who is in need and is passed-by by the righteous. I was taught it was less about Love in this moment and more about sin and my need for saving. My sin and my saving as judged by others. Others who had been saved and knew how to save me. But who needed/added conditions along the way.
Today those stories are right and so much of the teaching wrong. Today was not about the future, the homeless, the right words and worship, the right prayers and forgiveness. Today wasn’t about babies or growing-up or grandparents. Today was about love without condition in that moment. Love that is neither taught nor judged. Love that is because Love is – always. No saving or teaching necessary. Not even saving from sin.
And those wonderful bible stories … ?
Why do we grown-ups (who have been saved) take all the love out of them? Make them a teaching resource. Use them to change the beliefs of others. Into “correct beliefs” that I am never enough. That I am born to sin. That I must be corrected. That I must be saved or die forever. I wonder if that was the real reason for all those bible stories. Or might we grown-ups simply miss something really simple.
Love is because Love is – always.
A nineteen-month old who can’t read, write, speak – or even walk very far unaided – gave me that. Just as a grown-up Messiah that we grown-ups yearn to know, in church and home, gave each of us: Love you, them and something bigger that binds all of us together forever
I wonder again why we prefer our conditional, correct, qualified and judged judging version of “love”. Why we insist we know what is “biblically correct” and what is blasphemy. Why we turn our noses up at “The Pharisees” without ever seeing that our own choices and beliefs are so similar.
“Look at him looking at you.”
That is Love without condition. That is the bible I think we have been given. All I have to do is stop reading and studying and be. I am Love. The bible says so.