We quote it often in Celtic circles; looking into the face of a newborn baby is like looking into the face of God. What are we seeing? Peace? Purity? Unblemished delight and awe? Endless possibility?
It’s a bit harder to see the face of God in the face of your three-year-old who is lying on the floor, screaming bloody murder because her sock is crooked.
“I think the church’s job is to help us connect to God. All that other stuff- Catholic, Evangelical, whatever- it doesn’t matter,” a friend said to me recently.
“And to other people,” I replied. “If we’re doing it right, we see God in those people too.”
It is less complicated to see God in the faces of people we don’t know; the man asking for change on the corner, the houseless family on that commercial, the kids living in poverty in developing countries around the world. Those faces tug at our heartstrings for all the right reasons. Anne shared her own struggle recently of sharing food and resources with a family without getting to know their unique needs. I identify with that struggle. Being seen and known is basic human need, right up there with food and water and shelter.
Often times it is more difficult for me to see God in the faces I see the most. I know them deeply- the good and the bad. I don’t romanticize their struggles, we live them together. I confuse my desires with their own. I make too many demands and don’t ask enough questions. I rush when I should be present. I fail to communicate my expectations and then get frustrated when those expectations are unmet.
What I see when I look into the face of that toddler throwing a tantrum is humanity, vulnerability, perhaps even my own limitations as a parent. It’s tough to accept, knowing that surely, she’ll talk about me in therapy someday (God willing, I teach her well enough to know to go to therapy). I will continue to try and fail, as a parent and as a person. In the trying again, we learn to love more fully. We learn to listen better to one another’s needs and learn to put our own desires second. We accept and love people for who they are, not for what they can do for us.
In those newborn faces, it is possible we get a real glimpse of how God sees us, how God loves us. And in the faces of those who are a little harder to love— whether it’s the toddler throwing a tantrum or the coworker not pulling his weight or the family member with bad political opinions— with a little bit more work, we can find God there too.
Kelsey Hart is a friend of Celtic Way.