(Note: next week I will ask for ingredients for a Goblin-to-Go story, so be thinking....) (If this is an unfamiliar request, see earlier posts from May: "Jesus Told Stories" and "A Goblin-to-Go Story".)
Observing our granddaughter take delight in using a spoon for the first time, watching our grandson fling himself into the pool with delicious abandon – what joy! As grandparents, my husband and I are happy observers of these two babies, who are utterly secure in their awareness of being beloved children of attentive parents. And quantum mechanics assures us that being seen as objects of love and delight by their parents and grandparents is actually helping form them into loving and delightful people. "That which is observed changes."
Once again, it seems to me, science rephrases what Christianity has always known.
My husband says he never worked as hard in school as when he had his baseball coach as his teacher in eighth grade -- knowing that he was being observed by Red Beal compelled him to become a better student. And I remember back when I was teaching high school English, two of my colleagues chronicled the reading habits of a diverse group of sophomores. By the end of the year, all of the students in the study were reading far more than their classmates of similar academic background. My colleagues realized that simply knowing that they were being observed made the students more conscious of their own reading habits – and unconsciously changed them. Again: "That which is observed changes."
In the children's book The Goblin Under the Stairs, Mary Calhoun describes how differently three different people see the goblin that has set up residence under their stairs: looking at the goblin through a knothole, the boy sees a frisky little man, his mother sees a neat little servant elf, and his father sees a wild-haired goblin. When my children were growing up, they loved that book, but now I realize that The Goblin Under the Stairs is more than just a story. It actually demonstrates quantum mechanics: how Calhoun’s goblin looked depended on who was doing the looking.
Quantum physicists ponder how the mind of the observer directly influences the properties of whatever it observes. In other words, "You get what you see." They may be talking about waves and particles at the atomic level, but it works with Calhoun's goblin, and it works with actual children, too. If we see our children as beloved treasures, that's what they are. If we see them as problems to be solved, they are problematic. If we see them as failures, they will fail. Now that's not to deny that all children have their share of problems, some of which may be beyond our ability to solve. And, as I wrote back in January, children need the experience of failure in order to develop character and courage. (See the post: "Let the Little Children Suffer? Sometimes...") But having problems and experiencing failure is very different from being observed and identified by them.
All of this leads me back to our primary identification as beloved children of God, and it makes me wonder: how are we changed by God's compassionate observation of us? How might we live if we truly believed that God gazes on us with unconditional love? What added security might we offer our children if we could help them know that God watches over them and loves them, no matter what?
It's a paradigm shift for me to believe that the way I see something or someone actually affects what I observe. It is only by claiming my status as a beloved child of God, flaws and failures and problems and all, that I can begin to live into the responsibility involved. I can only do it by the grace of God.
Today's message: gaze on your children with love, as God does. It will change them.