Amy Welborn is a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Service and a regular contributer to the Living Faith quarterly devotional.
At that moment, contemplation was in order, since the baby was in a general state of discomfort and unease, and not much for play. In other words, he was fussing.
“He’s tired,” I explained to the older son as I tried to soothe the younger.
Always ready with the rational response, the lanky boy shifted, pushed up his glasses and spoke.
“Well then,” he suggested,” why doesn’t he just go to sleep?”
It made perfect sense to him, after all. It’s what he does most of the time if he’s tired. He goes to sleep. Why wouldn’t the baby just do the same thing?
I explained that the baby may be tired, but the difference is that he doesn’t know that he’s tired. What he experiences is a general discomfort, for which he has no solution but to cry.
Sure, we can look at the baby with sympathy for his immaturity and high hopes for the personal growth that will enable him to get in touch with his feelings, but should we really feel so superior to him?
Do we, decades after our own infancy, really follow our own advice and when faced with a relatively simple problem, just take care of it?
The work deadline is approaching – the project, paper or presentation must be finished. We hate it, we don’t want to face it, we don’t want to immerse ourselves in the necessary pain. So we complain. We procrastinate. We fantasize about our Powerball winnings.
And every minute of it, the work haunts us, making us miserable, casting a shadow on everything else we’re trying to do.
So why don’t we just tackle it, and get the work done?
It’s crazy really. If you’ve ever put yourself through the experience of knowing exactly what needs to be done to salve your suffering, but reluctant to do it, you know how senseless it is.
You big baby, you.
A broader matter catches my interest in relationship to this issue of deliberate, stubborn avoidance of answers.
As broad as God, as a matter of fact.
We live in a world, it seems, in which everyone is on some sort of a search. If you go to the “religion” section of your local bookstore, you’ll find that approximately 37.2 percent of the books include the word “journey” in their title: A Woman’s Journey to God. A Woman’s Journey to the Heart of God. Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt. To Pray God’s Will: Continuing the Journey. An Accidental Journey in Knowing God. A Journey to Deeper Intimacy with God.
Will we ever get there?
Of course, I don’t intend to demean the concept of “journey” in relation to the spiritual life – it’s a fundamental and helpful guiding concept, reminding us when we’re either stuck in despair or planted in arrogance, that it’s not over and we’re nowhere near finished being shaped by grace.
But these days, spiritual journeying comes bound with its companion concept of “search,” the implication being then, that the end of the journey or the search for answers to the God-questions is elusive and difficult to hold on to even when we think we’ve found it.
May I present to you: Jesus.
It seems to me as if we – and by we I mean Christians – are a lot like that baby who can’t tell what’s good for him. I am not quite sure when it happened, but sometime along the way, even we have lost hold of the truth that God has given humanity One who is both the Word in answer to the search and the loving comfort at the end of the journey.
Perhaps it’s all the competing voices. Perhaps it’s fear of the complete message of Jesus, what with his reminders of crosses and suffering and such. Perhaps we’re just too proud, and we can’t imagine that our terrifically complicated needs and questions could ever be answered by something so direct:
I am the Bread of Life.
No need to look any further, no need to procrastinate, and for sure, no need to fuss or exhaust ourselves on a journey.
That was God’s point, wasn’t it? The journey’s over.