16 March 2007

What Odin is teaching me

From when Odin was only four hours old, and his tiny hand reached up to grasp my finger, I’ve been struck by the intensity of the love I’ve felt for him. It’s like, “I don’t even know you and I’d kill or die for you already. Stop that!” The instantaneous nature of the experience has really made me think about the way God might experience love. With Odin, it was if a whole new storey had suddenly been added to my ‘love house’ if you’ll pardon the phrase. If my capacity to love was an 800 sq.ft single-level condo, Odin’s arrival suddenly changed it into a two storey townhouse with 3 beds and 1.5 baths.  I know I’ve made similar observations about Rebekah, how it hasn’t seemed to me that I love her more, but instead that her presence in my heart pushes out the walls to make more room for love...room she promptly fills but of course that’s the point. So it makes me wonder if God has a similar experience whever a image bearer is born. Is God’s space-love-time continuum constantly expanding with each new spirit that takes it’s place on the stage?

Anyway, what’s also struck me is the difference between the way I love Odin and the way I love Rebekah. With Re, our love has grown over time as we’ve spent time together. It started out, and largely continues to be, a consensual act. I agree to give her a part of my heart and accept a part of hers. Not that I want or intend to, but there is always the option to withhold or reject love, and I confess that at times that occurs despite myself. But Odin grabbed my heart with both hands without ever asking. He reached up to my hand and instead took a hold of something so deep inside of me that it took my breath away. Likewise, I am virtually powerless to withhold my love from him. This is what makes it so ridiculously easy to spoil a child I imagine. The impulse to address every discomfort, every whimper, every moment is overpowering. Many people have suggested that it’s good we had a boy, because a little read-haired daughter would have me so completely wrapped around her finger that I’d be useless as a parent and worse than useless as an authority figure.

But what I really wanted to talk about is the purity of that love for Odin, it’s completely unburdened nature and how sadly that is not the way I typically love my wife. With Odin, there is no sarcasm, no hidden agenda, no expectation, and no fear. Not once has it crossed my mind that he’s spitting out his cereal in order to irritate me. I’ve never thought him careless with my neurotic sensitivities, or fretted over what that glance really meant. I never tease Odin, not even ‘in good fun’ and I never make pointed comments to him out of my perception of his best interest. I never worry that Odin is secretly harboring some grudge, I never approach the door to my home wondering if Odin is in a good mood today.

In short, I never project my own petty insecurities on my baby boy and I have absolute faith in his pure heart toward me.
In Odin I see only goodness, hope, promise, and hear me now – I see those things even if they are not objectively true. In my son I love without baggage or hesitation or fear of rejection. I receive his love and seek to draw more out of him, with an almost reckless disregard. In Odin I see only the divine spirit smiling back into my life, blessing my heart with the pure and simple reality of another image bearer sharing this house, this time, this life, with me.

Odin seems to me genuinely Holy – and that inspires no fear.

Now I understand some of the whys and wherefores. Odin and I have very little history – there is no list of previous faux pas and offenses. Our relationship is truly tabla rasa. There is also the clarity afforded by a very obvious parent-child relationship, while clearly muddied like everything else in this world, the roles in that relationship are much clearer than most which allows me to act with far less hesitation. Odin is also defenseless. He’s too young to have developed the layers of emotional self-defense that even a teenager has, so in that sense he is also an open book, unclouded by the long list of polite lies we’re supposed to tell, unable to withdraw to his own sullen mind, much less his room. And so his vulnerability encourages me to be similarly vulnerable to him.

The thing is, with a baby, all of the above attitudes and action make perfect sense, or are at least reasonably defensible, because a baby lacks the kinds of quills any adult has, the kinds of barbs that I have. I would never even think twice about turning the other cheek to Odin, to going an extra mile or forgiving another time – because it never occurs to me that he deserves anything less.

It all has me thinking about how I might love Rebekah better.
I should always think the best of her, regardless of whether or not she is at her best.
I would do well to be recklessly vulnerable to her, knowing full well I’ll get hurt.
In Rebekah, I want to focus on the Holy within the human and let my son teach my how to better love my wife.

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