“A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.
They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough…
It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again,’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again,’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.
It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
I feel like putting my pen down and just saying “amen” to what Chesterton said up there. It’s a big chunk of words that eats well into my word limit, but could I have said it any better? No way. I’m sure it resonates with parents and carers – anyone who has spent time with littlies.
My two-year-old loves to grip our hands as we’re walking along, dad on one side, mum on the other. “One-two,” he says expectantly. So we begin, knowing he never tires of this activity and only distraction will quell his enthusiasm.
“One… two… three…,” and we swing him by his arms high into the air until that wonderful giggle bubbles out his grin.
“Again!” he says.
And so it goes, over and over, until either our arms get sore or we tire of the monotony. Same with the books he will read front to back, his favourites, over and over. Same with the food he loves, “More, more!”
This theme of repetition, of tirelessly echoing an action, made me think of a verse in Matthew (18:21-22). Peter approached Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
It’s a childlike question. The rabbis (religious teachers) of the day taught that you should forgive someone three times before evening the score, so Peter’s suggestion of “up to seven times” was really quite generous. He was likely in the throes of a rift – perhaps a friend betrayed him, stole from him, badmouthed him or hurt him – and he was weighing up at what point he should stop turning the other cheek.
I don’t think Jesus’ reply was the one Peter was hoping for.
“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Some versions say “seventy times seven”. In other words, never stop forgiving.
The Bible tells us that it’s in our own best interest to forgive others – Matthew 6:14-15 says that God forgives us as we forgive others. There’s a wake-up call! And when we hold onto unforgiveness, it pollutes our soul, allowing bitterness to grow (James 3:11).
We all know of someone who has the ability of drying up all compassion. They seem to attract trouble and each time you forgive it’s with the knowledge that you will probably be in this place again. Soon. And when that happens, you wonder, why forgive?
But Jesus says, “Do it again! Do it again!”
As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday February 11, 2013.