When the skies opened up late one night recently, our 11-year-old son appeared at the living room door, having emerged from sleep. He seemed deeply concerned at the rain and the impact it would have. Our own thoughts were much more benign: “It’s just raining,” was our gut response before we thanked him nicely and sent him back to bed. The import of the moment was sheeted home to us only a few days later when we found our three children fascinated by the hailstorm which had unleashed its ferocity while they were waiting in the car. Their faces were pressed against the glass and glowing with delight as the surrounding street gradually turned white. We suddenly realised that as a result of having suffered eight years of drought, none of our children would remember seeing such intensity of rain. This was a new experience of an age-old phenomenon.
Those of us who have “experienced more of life” often lose the fascination and wonder with simple things. While children are fascinated with butterflies, we are reaching for the Aeroguard. The prospect of a new puppy or kitten brings delight for a child, while the adult thinks of the work involved. How easy it can be to lose the power inherent in simple discoveries. How truth and wonder can be lost to succeeding generations as a result. The things we take for granted are easily lost.
As I reflect on the ways adults contemplate the own experience of many of life’s simply and wondrous things, I find them often tainted with some dark experience. Whether it be in the beauty of nature’s expression, the contemplation of God and all things spiritual, or our attitude to community, it is easy to let our own darkness cloud the experience of innocent children. As a Buddhist monk who had spent his entire life in a monastery lamented: “At least Buddha knew the world that he was renouncing. I have not even experienced that which I live to renounce.” Our dark cynicism or over-protectiveness can deprive children of much beauty and potential in life and in people.
It is a challenge for us as a community of faith to allow children to explore ground which we find painful, to discover beauty and light where we only know revulsion and darkness, and to share wonder at something we have found routine.
It can be an even greater challenge for us to walk back into the storm experiences of life and see God at work in them. Joseph, Moses, Job and David all discovered something of God’s beauty in the painful storms of their lives. Something they would have discovered no other way.
November 21, 2004