Rachel's post on the ways that her dog Maggie brings to mind characteristics of God has had me thinking about unlikely places to find sacred inspiration. First, I tried thinking about Selma (our 50 lb lab-chow mix), but I guess she's not quite as godly as Maggie, because I really didn't see the connection (sorry, Selms). But as I started thinking about Zosia, I realized that some of the central challenges of being around children are the very things that bring us into deeper relationships with those around us-- and specifically, with God.
Babies are incredibly needy-- at least my babies are (I still occasionally see what I call the "backpack baby" who just seems happy to be schlepped around anywhere, but as far as I am concerned, these children are a different species than Zosia). What's more, she is not ashamed of unabashedly demanding my full presence and attention. She is a master at sensing when I am being present and when I am not. For example, I can be making little faces at her while I try to carry on a conversation with someone on the phone, and she doesn't buy it for a second. She knows that I am not being present. Or, at the sound of computer typing noises, Zosia runs (even if previously happily playing on her own) screaming, because she knows that when I am on the computer is one of the times that I am the least present to her.
What's amazing is that once I set aside whatever the obstacle is and truly engage with her, she instantly mellows out and becomes happy. Sometimes just a few minutes of presence (lying with her on the couch, reading a book, chasing her around the house) give her the security and confidence to play independently for a long time. So, all of this has me thinking about God yearning for our presence, and Jesus' command that above all else we should love God (above even loving our neighbor, which is totally not the way I usually think about it).
It's a bit trickier with God, because God doesn't come screaming, doesn't whine, and doesn't tug at our pants. But obviously, just as our human relationships are deepened by real presence to one another, so too does presence deepen our relationship with God. This is something that, to be totally honest, I struggle with. It's hard for me to take any substantial or even insubstantial amount of time out of my day (especially while I'm surrounded by a host of creatures that very vocally demand my presence) and be present with God. I have a hard time justifying it. But those rare occasions that I do become present to God, I feel like the details of the rest of my life fall into place and everything remains so... in perspective. Maybe I just need to make a commitment and trust that everything else will fall in place? And, perhaps ironically, I have a 15 month old that just came in from playing outside with her dad now tugging at my sweater!