Remember my posts on humility? Yeah, this is going to be kindof one of those. But with BABIES!
First, I would like to tell you a story. Once upon a this summer, I spent three weeks traveling with a 15 month old baby (and a group of sixteen 16year olds) through Italy. Aside from complete admiration for the parenting style of the 15month old’s mom and dad, I found myself learning or being reminded of something: humans are incarnate.
So freaking incarnate. I have been known to comment joyfully on this to my friends, for instance: “Gee isn’t it awesome that we get to eat and enjoy food for nourishment! We could be photosythethic! Isn’t incarnation grand!”
This particular realization comes from a less joyful place and it progresses through three stages.
- Baby Stage.
- Teenager Stage
- Me Stage
OK, so watching this baby through the 3 week trip, I started noticing. When she was hungry, tired, or had been sitting still for too long – we knew it. (I have to qualify this a little because this experience of “knowing” when a baby is cranky has got to be the most mild version of the experience I have ever had. Because her parents are traveling/parenting rockstars.) Nonetheless, when when baby was incarnationaly upset, her ability to be happy, good, calm, and otherwise Gerber-Baby-Like was hampered.
Basically she needed a freaking nap.
The good thing was that whenever this happened, her rockstar parents dealt with it. They fed her. Let her sleep. Let her toddle around the Roman forum showing them every possible variety of old rocking thing. And then she got better. I will come back to this.
Much as my brilliant, inquisitive, charming teenage students were determined to be grownups (and they really did mostly succeed), on the LONGEST TRAVELLING DAY EVER* that status as intellectually impressive Shakespeare prodigies slipped a little. (*When I say longest day ever, believe me. They woke up at 6, crammed to stand on a packed train for an hour, hiked up a hill in no shade for 2 hours, hiked back down, listened to 4 lectures, walked 3 more miles to cram onto another train, picked up their bags, got on a 4 hour train ride back to Rome Termini, negotiated through pickpockets for 15 minutes, and then sat in traffic without dinner until 10 pm.)
I don’t say this to make fun of them, but sincerely, in the most mature way possible, they were just cranky
They were hungry, over-tired, stubborn, getting into fights over whether someone had been on the phone too long, picking at each other over really dumb things, etc. I walked around campus watching these teenagers refuse to go to bed, I couldn’t help thinking: You just need a freaking nap.
Only, I couldn’t tell them that. I just had to watch them drive themselves nuts for a few hours. Next day, (LO AND BEHOLD!) after breakfast they were the brilliant students I had come to know.
Which brings me to…
I made all of these brilliant observations about how teenagers are just like babies. Then, on a 12 hour driving day on a road trip with my parents, I just about threw a temper tantrum.
Let me get my excuses out of the way: I hadn’t slept well the night before because I was too tired (yes, I mean that), the room was too warm, and my muscles were too sore. My legs hurt from sitting behind my 6’7” father. My stomach hurt from vitamins. I had a toothache. I had a headache. I couldn’t drive or be helpful because I had too many incidents on my record for my parents’ insurance. I was tired of my dad’s music choices. I needed a shower. I needed to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t write blog posts because my brain wasn’t working. I am a bad person. I sucked at praying. Why couldn’t I offer up this pain? I was hungry. I wasn’t hungry for that food. I hate road food.
Basically. I was cranky and needed a freaking nap.
How do I know this? Because the next morning, when I woke up after a long night of climate controlled sleep, ate a breakfast containing both carbs and protein, which also tasted delicious, and sat in exactly the same place I was in a fabulous mood. I LOVE road trips. Kentucky and Tennessee are gorgeous. I love classical music. I get to talk to my parents who I won’t see for a month or so. Praying is so easy! I can see God at work in the hills we are driving past!
All of this is to say: I am a baby. Or more specifically, I am incarnate.
I am not supposed to be a pure spirit or mind. I have a body, and sometimes that means that I have bodily needs that I cannot ignore. Babies have it so good because they have parents to make sure that their incarnational needs are met. Whether they like it or not.
But we are all babies. On one side, that means we get cranky when we are hungry or tired. On the other, we have a super convenient way to start fixing “existential crises”. And these I borrow from Reesa (who I believe was quoting her mother when she first told me this):
1. Eat something.
2. Go for a walk.
3. Take a nap.
Then think again. Then pray again. Because we an incarnate people with a God who became not only incarnate, but an incarnate baby to remind us that the needs of our incarnate bodies are not something to be purely shunned for the sake of higher spiritual pursuits. We are not angels. We are men! … who occasionally need to take a freaking nap.