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.