In a conversation with a friend, they mentioned in passing something one of their children had done that disappointed them. With my usual sardonic sense of humor I immediately responded, “That was your mistake — having children!” The fact that I have no children added edge to the outrageousness of the joke.
We both laughed. My friend sighed a bit.
In the middle of the night I woke up thinking about the statement in the Bible that comes within half a dozen chapters of the description of God creating mankind.
Genesis 6: 6. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
God’s solution to His pain was to wipe out His work in man almost completely. He found one man to start over with. And that man, Noah, would still have trouble with children.
My thoughts went to a passage I had recently read that mentions children.
Matthew 11: 16. “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17. “`We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
That’s the way children are, of course. They can’t be any other way, can they? They don’t know any better. They’re children.
The problem they have is the same one that took out Adam and Eve. They reach a conclusion based on what they see, what they can understand, as limited as the data is.
There is also the subtle distortion of expectation. They expect a certain result from playing a flute and that is all they look for. They (and we) dismiss anything else that may be happening. If it does not fit the template of our expectation or desire, it doesn’t matter.
In my book On Pelican Wings I wrote about an extraordinary demonstration of the phenomenon that became known as “inattentional blindness,” the failure to notice a fully-visible, but unexpected object because attention is engaged on another task, event, or object.
In the experiment, people were asked to watch a video where two teams of players passed and bounced a basketball around. Viewers were asked to count the number of times the white-shirt team passed the ball to another white-shirt player. Most viewers had no trouble keeping an accurate count over a couple of minutes watching the video clip.
What nobody noticed in the middle of the video was an additional person who walked onto the court between the other players. This person was fully dressed in a bear costume and stopped briefly in the middle of the court to turn and wave at the camera!
No one had been asked to watch for someone in a bear costume. Their attention was elsewhere, expectations were elsewhere. So they missed it.
Like children who don’t hear a parent calling them off a playground.
I noticed that Jesus doesn’t seem to be criticizing the children for what they are expecting. The trouble seems to be that they call out to others and want others to conform to their own stunted expectation. They distract others from seeing what is going on.
A few verses after citing this problem in children, Jesus changed direction and gave thanks for what children could see. God Himself was revealing things to them that were hidden from others who took pride in their own clarity of vision and insight.
Matthew 11: 25. At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
God takes joy in showing His work to those who will notice it, whether they understand it or not. Viewing God’s wonders should indeed fill us with wonder.
And, apparently, God has learned the safe way to show us His work. That way was explained to Paul.
II Corinthians 12: 7. To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
8. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
9. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Children are weak. But let me speak plainly. WE are weak. I am weak. I am prone to inattentional blindness because I am looking for something else, not what God is doing. Not what He is giving me: a gift of grace and a manifestation of perfect power.
I don’t notice because the thorns are distracting me.
Matthew 19: 14. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I am noticing that the Jesus inviting me to come near is wearing a crown of thorns.
Say hello to the bear.