Someone handed me their baby this morning in the cathedral while I gathered the children for Sunday School. The baby was a soft, round, small, dear thing with dark eyes that looked and me and considered what might happen next. To be certain, I did not know either. So I returned her gaze with similar curiosity, marking time and wondering how long the little one would take to conclude that her smallness was safe with me.
Around me, there was already a crowd of children. It was a summer Sunday and this position being brand new, I was in the process of deciding upon whether or not we should have a nursery. As I propped the baby’s roundness on my hip, I made my way up the centre aisle to find that there was yet another baby standing on a wooden pew, searching the faces behind him with dour marvel.
So I spoke to that tiny one’s grand mum and expressed my cheer at the sudden baby invasion. But then, I was flabbergasted under the morning light spilling through the stain-glassed windows. With a group of lively children, with their needs and questions, with their velocity – could I teach them all while I held a baby in my arms?
The answer came simply as I guided the older children back down the isle—I would teach by relationship. If I had any hope of being effective this morning it was because I had made a connection with the most susceptible in my charge—the baby. If I all was right with the baby, then most would be right with the class. If things were not right with the baby then the baby—in all her loveliness—would squiggle and squirm and deconstruct my biblical deconstruction.
So I would spend the morning allowing the baby to undo my teaching. Which was not necessarily a bad thing. Would I sit to read the gospel to the children? No, I could not. The baby did not like that. She began to squint her lovely dark eyes and let out an unremitting wail. So I stood to read the Gospel. Her smallness guided me to be a postured authority on the text—standing tall, albeit with her on my bent hip. Would I be able to read the text while swaying gently to calm the baby? No, I would make mistakes. I would misread words. I would go back, correct myself—the Gospel would still be read. It would come from the jumbled source that I was; standing tall, but more humbled.
Suddenly, my sister arrived, late but replete with her own children and with a pair of willing arms. I could pass the baby to her. The child cried only at first but was calmed—perhaps with the notion that she had transformed the text. Just as the infant Christ at the hour of His birth changed the meaning of the testament into what the world needed to hear; transformation is always possible.
Thank you, little babe.