When I am late for church I sit in the balcony, lean over, and people watch. One Sunday I sat charmed by seeing an elderly man reaching forward to the pew in front of his, to hook fingers with the little baby girl standing at her mother’s shoulder, looking at him.
Such a sweet moment. Any one of us would have been that person, connecting with that sweet baby, softening our eyes, bringing out all our warmth and radiating love and acceptance.
That day at church was also a child dedication. The congregation is asked to recite verses in chorus, promising to watch over these children and help bring them up in the beloved community, a world striving for justice and peace. Again, who wouldn’t agree?
But let us think on what that love and dedication really means. The baby grows up. They may have learning challenges. They may not be brought up well, may be insecure, angry. They may have difficulties making social and emotional connections. They may sometimes be defiant, arrogant, disrespectful. They may be sad and uncommunicative. They may be violent. They may hurt themselves. This baby may not be all these things, but we know they will not be all sweetness and light. And we know that some will test us, provoke us, send us to despair.
And who sticks by that child, during those times? Who is still willing to hang in and provide their beloved community? Who will remember that these are the times that child really needs soft eyes, warmth, love and acceptance?