Our daughter Eleanor is two years old. I should start by saying she is an unbelievably good baby, but as all parents of small children know, the “terrible twos” are a terribly unavoidable reality.
This post is part confession because I’ve been more and more cognizant of the frequency with which I reprimand her. To be fair, the reprimands don’t come without reason, but the fact of the matter is that Eleanor does way more things right than she does wrong (most days, anyway).
The confession here is that while I’m quick to correct Eleanor, I’m slow to celebrate her. My instinct to make sure she doesn’t play with her food (like when she threw pasta at the wall on Tuesday) or explain to her that she can’t ride in her stroller with her dress over her head because we shouldn’t show our undies in public – I believe those instincts are well intended. But I believe those instincts also point to something deeper.
I recently heard that human beings are neurologically wired to focus on negative experiences – in fact, negative experiences often leave an impression on our brains instantaneously. What’s interesting is that while our brains are immediately impacted by negativity, it takes a conscious effort to focus on a good experience for 15 seconds before it makes a significant impression on our brain. This is important because it not only pales the goodness that was and is present, but it also causes us to be less hopeful about the future.
I think this also plays a roll in our spirituality. When we can’t see the world rightly we fail to see ourselves rightly, which is to fail to see and believe in the inherent goodness present in creation. We forget that before sin crept into the world the Creator looked at what was made and called it good. In other words, we started reading the book at the wrong chapter.
So what are we to do?
There’s a Hebrew “teshuvah,” which literally means “return.” To return is to remember our inherent goodness, to turn back to the kind of people we were created to be.
Coincidentally, teshuvah is also the act of repentance. This means that sin is simply forgetting who we are, and Jesus comes with an invitation to repent – teshuvah – and remind us who we were always intended to be.
So next time I find pasta on the wall, maybe I’ll be slow to correct and quick to celebrate that playfulness, and when Eleanor would rather color on our Swedish-crafted, self-assembled coffee table I’ll applaud her creativity. Well, maybe.
In any case, it’s my hope that we learn to walk in the grace of the invitation to teshuvah; that we first train our eyes to see the inherent goodness present in all creation; and be mindful of the goodness we encounter lest we lose hope in the future.
Grace and Peace, friends.