Denise Spencer: Innocent For Now

Becoming a grandparent is a very retro experience. I’m only getting started, but I’m already remembering things I’d forgotten about my children when they were infants. If you’ll indulge a doting “Grandmere,” I’d like to share just one of them.

The other day I went to visit my five-month-old grandson, Silas, at daycare. His daycare is just a skip and a hop from the building where I work, so I take advantage of the opportunity to pop in fairly often. Usually the older children are bouncing around playing, and they flock around me to report what they’ve done that day. This time, though, the mood was noticeably more subdued.

“Miss Amanda” was taking the group out to the playground, but three of the preschoolers remained inside. “Miss Pearl” seated herself in a chair and gathered them on the floor around her like little chicks. These three tots were being kept indoors because of misbehavior. Miss Pearl wanted to be sure each one knew why he or she was not getting to play with the others. She asked the wee wrongdoers what they had done amiss.

One little boy piped up and declared in a nice, clear voice that he had been talking too loudly. Miss Pearl agreed, and reminded him that despite the fact that he’d been repeatedly asked to use his “inside voice,” he had continued to be much too loud. The little girl had done something intentional (I missed just what) that resulted in tearing up her shoe. “I don’t think it can be fixed,” Miss Pearl lamented, adding, “Your mommy’s not going to be happy about this.” I know mommy, and I was 100 percent sure Miss Pearl was right about that. I never did catch what the last little malefactor had done, but he also accurately confessed to his crime.

And there, in the midst of this daycare decadence, sat Silas. Propped up in an infant seat, he gazed about the room wide-eyed, as if wondering what on earth he had done to warrant being kept indoors with this unruly crowd. And in those tranquil blue eyes I glimpsed it.


Silas has not yet sinned. His pudgy feet have never led him where he should not go. His dimpled hands have never grasped a weapon. His mind doesn’t fathom peek-a-boo, much less how to take revenge on an enemy. His mouth still offers coos, not curses.

He is innocent — but only for now. You see, he is innocent simply because he’s too young to be otherwise. Only give him a little time, and he will join the rest of the human race.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert tells of attending a “baby ceremony” in Bali. In that culture, she explains, babies are considered gods until they are six months old. As such, they are never allowed to touch the ground. Then at six months there is an elaborate ceremony culminating in the infant being held and lowered so her tiny feet can touch the dust of the earth for the very first time. She is now one of us.

I told my son-in-law about my daycare experience. Later I recalled the scene and found it amusing that our sweet little Silas appeared to be “numbered among the transgressors.” That thought led me to the One who was truly innocent, yet was numbered among the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12), even accepting our punishment to the highest degree.

When does it happen, exactly? Each of us had a moment, so long ago it will be always unremembered, when we first made the decision to willfully disobey. It may have been as simple as talking too loudly or ruining a shoe, but we knew it was wrong and we did it anyway. At what point does God begin to hold us accountable? I’m sure we could argue about that all day, but in the end we would agree that He does hold us to account. I hope we would also agree that there is only one remedy, and his name is “Jesus.”

Satisfied that the children knew the error of their ways and had been adequately reformed for the moment, Miss Pearl let them join their fellows on the playground. Silas smiled up at me in a toothless grin. Though today he is incapable of iniquity, soon enough the seed of original sin will begin to bud. He will bear the fruit of his humanity with a shouted, “No!” and the age of innocence will vanish. I, for one, will hate to see it go.

13 thoughts on “Denise Spencer: Innocent For Now

  1. Teresa has a theory; God makes babies cute so we don’t kill them.

    My experience going into daycare is that several other children run up to me and start talking while our daughter Johannah runs away. She knows I’m there to pick her up and take her home. All the others know I’ll just listen to them and then let them be.


  2. Denise, I am a new grandma myself with a five month old girl and a two month old boy! How nice that you can visit your little sweetie from your place of work. My granddaughter lives 500 miles away but we SKYPE with my son and daughter-in-law and it is almost like being there. Mine are innocents too having no intent to do wrong as yet. Callie grabbed the dog’s collar while lying on a blanket and pulled it hard trying to reach him. The dog is a miniature dachshund and up until recently was the baby of the family. Her yanking on him didn’t get any hostile reaction out of him though. He did get a treat for being a very good dog. All this went on while we were on SKYPE with them. I too wonder when the first true transgression will occur with each of our grandchildren, but no doubt the day will come. Thanks for this post.


  3. Nice try….but it is not churches who call certain actions and thoughts “sin”, but the One who created us all who makes this determination. Sorry, buddy, but if you are running with an “If there is a God” theme, that pretty much disqualifies you from any hair-splitting about what is and isn’t sin.


  4. Nonsense. What churches call “sin” are a range of human behaviors which evolved in response to competitive pressures which we did not choose. If there is a God, then he is responsible. Also, the identification of certain behavior (e.g. sexuality, aggression) as sinful is culture-bound, and has no universal validity (notwithstanding the pretentions of certain religions to universality).


  5. I feel wrong to say this, but…..

    I loved my children deeply when they disobeyed. Deeply. Not because I’m some great person, but because they had the audacity to cross me.

    I didn’t put up with it, mind you. I loved them when they disobeyed, I loved them when they challenged me, and I had respect and admiration for them when they proved me wrong. Not many people want to go there with me.

    Now my grandson is just moving out of innocence and into feeling his way through the world for himself. He’s all of 12 months old and beginning to show that he doesn’t think I know everything. Oh, how I love him for showing his true self to me.


  6. Sorry, Lauri, I can’t leave this unchallenged. Sin entered into the world thru man and continues in the world thru all men and women who have ever lived. God is an exacting judge, demanding in his wrath payment in full for sin. The good news for all, however, is this. God turned his wrath onto himself. God judged humankind guilty–and rightly so. Then he laid aside his judicial robes, stood as the defendant, and received the penalty that belongs to us. The only one to have ever lived a sinless life–the Son of God himself–died in place of all sinners.

    Our wounds are very real wounds because we live in a broken world where we hurt ourselves and others constantly. We are very real sinners in need of very real forgiveness. This comes only by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the belief that when we die we will once again live–not by anything we have done or not done, but solely based on what God has done from the foundation of the world.

    This is the Gospel. We must not accept anything less than this.


  7. Interesting. The main thing I remember about the first six months of my daughter’s life (and which I am getting ready to experience again when my son is born in a few weeks) is that my daughter was for a large part of that time unable to smile or laugh. She was either asleep, or she was straight-faced, or she was crying. Often activities which were supposed to provide amusement or distraction, such as being placed in a baby swing, yielded quiet complacency for a short while and then tears. My conclusion was that my small baby was almost always uncomfortable with the experience of being conscious outside the womb. Too cold, too bright, too unpredictable. It may not have been an entire six months, but for quite a while the experience of joy in her circumstances seemed beyond her. When I finally managed to coax smiles and laughter out of her, it was a great day. And it has been ever since.


  8. Having watched my little brood grow older I have seen several phases of innocence lost. from the first time they uttered “No” or shook their head with determination, or became stubborn and threw a tizzy – it still seemed like innocence, only now their “wants” got in the way.

    Then came that loss of innocence that comes from realizing certain things like – there is no Santa (I haven’t given up on him yet) followed by the tooth fairy, easter bunny, hobbits and leprechauns….

    I saw it again when they gave up that psychological dependence on us parents – no more “I want to be with daddy” and instead replaced with “I want to do it myself” or the act of walking 3 feet in front of or behind at the mall to assert that bubble of autonomy.

    And then – as they reached their twenties the loss of that idealism – that they couldn’t really change the world for those with a liberal spirit, or there could be shades of grey for those raised in a more conservative or fundy evangelical environment.

    And lastly for me – my loss of innocence came when I thought I could take care of my aging parents in my home, and everything would be rosy – only to end 10 months later with bitterness, resentment, and extended family relationships still in shreads.

    Ah innocence – how I long for it.


  9. “Sin” is a word I no longer use in my ministry because of the images brought forth of a condemning, wrathful God and a human incarnation that is punishment for our supposed “sin” against this God. Instead, I view what is traditionally referred to as “original sin” as our “core spiritual wound.” This wound is the FALSE perception that we are somehow separate from God. Jesus came to understand and invited his disciples to remember that we are not in fact separate from God, but are One with God in love. When we forget this truth, we suffer the pain and longing of “separation” and it is this pain that creates the fears within us that cause us to act in ways that are other than loving, kind, generous, merciful, compassionate, peaceful, cooperative, harmonious, etc. The “sins” that we commit out of this place of forgetfulness become no longer necessary as we allow the wound of perceived separation to become healed. And we find healing through our chosen spiritual practices: prayer, meditation, service, worship, and through the gift of God’s grace.


  10. Wow. Wonderful point. A whole different way to look at innocence lost. Thank you for bringing this up.


  11. Newborns don’t cry because they feel bad for the pain they just caused their mothers.

    They cry because they are uncomfortable.

    “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)


  12. For me the concept of sin is very logical. Sin as I see it is a part of being human. When I read the Washington Post or listen to the news I hear about what happens in the world. From financial fruad, to a gang shooting in SE D.C. From an adult manufactuirng child porngraphy to a student who shoots someone in a school. For this is all sin and it’s logical. Where did it grow form? How did it get to this? Will it get worse? What is the hope or more importantly where is the hope? That part I don’t know.

    When I first read this post it reminded my of how eager I was to grow up. Now that I am an adult with a mortgage, aging parents, responsibility at work, etc… I wish I could be a kid again and taken life more at ease. I miss those days of Saturday morning cartoons at the crack of dawn and doing homework after geting out of first grade at 1:00.

    But there is another kind of innocene I wonder that can be tied into this theme of innocence. I hope I am not generalizing but there’s a certain innocence that comes with evangelical faith. When I reflect on how things were, I think back fo how life was simple. It was either black and white. The Bible had every answer and you simplified problems or situations to deal with them. God will answer every prayer and people choose all their circumsatnces. From the person dealing with doubt, he needs to spend more time in the word, to the gay individual wrestling with homosexuality. Heck he choose it. This may be twisted…but when I think of innocence I also think of that as well. A simple faith in a sheltered environment, withdrawn from the demands of life and the challenges of it all within a bubble. That is something I think of as well.

    Do you remember when that “innocence” was lost? When that bubble popped? You prayed for someone who was ill, and they got worse and died. A close friend uttered the words you never thought you’d hear, “I’m gay….” You began to notice problems with the Bible and how it’s used. Maybe you wrestled with alcohol or sometihng else and you realized the battle that is on your hands and how its going to be lifelong and not the quick easy transformation that is taught.

    For me that’s what I think of when I lost my “innocene”


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