Newborn babies are gross. There, I said it. That statement is not about the miracle or sanctity of life, but merely points to the aesthetics of freshly delivered humans. Spending a significant amount of time swimming around in stuff called amniotic fluid in an amniotic sac connected to a uterus by a placenta before dramatically and traumatically breaking out into the world of gaseous oxygen and french fries does not adequately prepare a person for their first photos. That’s all I’m saying. And I’m mostly kidding. Ish. Mostly kidding-ish. Clearly, I’m not a father yet. And I don’t know much about pregnancy. If any of my facts are wrong, I blame Google.
There are other unattractive features to babies. Poop. When a new human makes his or her first appearance, they might have some of this in their mouth because they’re terrible at timing. A flaw that likely gets better, but in so many other ways lasts a lifetime (Mostly talking about myself). I haven’t touched on the other body fluids yet, because this isn’t about that. So let’s move on.
Eventually, babies become cute. In my limited experience, this is sometime after their eyes can focus and they develop the ability to distinguish their bodies from everything else around them. It’s at this point that they smile. Not learn to smile, but actually do it without thinking. Because one great thing about babies is that they don’t know how to fake it. They’re happy, or they’re raging. Love it when they’re happy because it’s completely genuine, bow down and do whatever you can to placate the upset ones.
As children grow, the screaming slowly morphs into speaking- well, first gibberish- then speaking. As their motor skills develop, they start doing things like crawling, walking, opening everything they can find and eventually, mashing crayons or markers onto used printer paper or coloring books bought for the purpose of indoctrinating them in their parents’ most recent concerns- gluten allergies is an easy example. By this point, most children have developed a sense of those around them, too. And they want to share. They draw things for their parents, or in my case, an uncle. Going back to my blatant and possibly rude honesty, most of this art is no good. It’s like Jackson Pollock or some other non-representational abstractionist who I don’t like. Something I’ve learned about this art is that you cannot interpret it for them. One cannot say, “Oh, I like this dog you drew!”
Because if whatever figure they’ve created isn’t a dog, one has likely insulted that small person’s artistic sense and they will respond, “That isn’t a dog! [You idiot- implied by intonation] It’s your girlfriend!”
Instead, I’ve learned to ask the aspiring virtuoso, “Please tell me about this. What have you drawn?” And without a second thought, this small person will offer me the artist statement that would likely have been printed below their piece in a gallery somewhere in Los Angeles. That is how you win with little painters and sketchers of things.
But here’s what I’m actually trying to say. Even though babies are gross and kids’ art isn’t great, we love them and everything they do. We hang their unfortunate vignettes on our refrigerators, scrapbook the hell out of their drawings, or (in extreme cases) frame that hot mess of blue and pink finger paint and hang it above the mantle like it’s a lost work by Picasso or Monet. Why do we do this to things done in colored pencil by humans who are still developing their fine motor skills?
We do it because we love them. SO much.
We love them so much we could die (but- we choose to live- for them… and bacon).
The art of an untalented child becomes valuable in spite of their obvious lack of skill. The exception being Akiane, who truly seems to have been born with an artistic gift from God. But prodigies are the exception, not the rule. The visual musings of our children, nieces and nephews mean much to us because we love them. The same applies to loving a newborn child in all their body fluids and cone-shaped head-ness. They’re beautiful because they’re loved. And frankly, as much as I’ve picked on children thus far, this is true for all of us. We become lovely by way of being loved.
Have you ever wondered why a friend loved some idiot? Have you pondered why they clung to a relationship with a girl or guy even though the object of their affection is a total pain in the neck? A complete parasite? Really mean and selfish? Whatever other derogatory criticism you could throw at them? It happens because the act of loving that unfortunate pile of creation has made them beautiful. The old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is actually true. Beauty is something we apply to the people we adore.
Which brings me to my main point and therefore, the close. We’re dirty, ridiculous and selfish sinners. All of us. And we might have poop in our mouths. Metaphorical poop. But feces, nonetheless. We’re ugly. Maybe not on the outside, but certainly on the inside. And we’re made lovely by the love of Jesus. Part of this is sanctification, but the other part is in the eye of the ultimate beholder, God. He looks at us and all of the uncoordinated, sloppy junk we do and He loves us. So much. He loves us so much that He died. But He also lived. For us. And probably not bacon, because that’s not kosher. Which doesn’t matter anymore, but still.