As a child I grew up in a home full of children. I had an older sister and a younger brother, but the house was a tumble of others, morning until evening, every weekday, every week. Mom ran an informal daycare, mostly for the children of university students. With students arriving for veterinary school, and then graduating, there was always a turnover, and with my mother’s consciously student friendly pricing, never a shortage.
Comfortable and familiar with babies and their ways, my life circumstances have not brought me children of my own, but I’ve always been keenly aware of the children around me. I take a particular delight in babies, from when they can set up on their own, to the time when they can run around, as this is the time of discovery of person.
I’m sure that we have perceptions and begin learning even before were born. In that time, and as tiny babies, though we are already able to have and express emotions our concepts of ourselves and the world around us is not yet formed. With limited motor control, and no real independence, life is in what does or doesn’t come to us. But as babies learn to focus and grasp, both taking things in hand (and mouth), and sifting the meaning of things, the world begins to take shape for them.
The grocery store is a great place to engage babies, along for the ride, they are generally left to their own devices as their parents focus on the tasks at hand. With no one else paying attention to them, the fat, old, bald guy wiggling his fingers in greeting and making odd faces can be intensely interesting. Emotions flicker across their faces as they consider whether they should be concerned or entertained. Mostly I get at least a shy smile, but they often crack up as they realize that I am no threat and really quite funny.
Still living at the home at the beginning of my college career, I had an experience that showed that these interactions and experiences are serious and meaningful as we mature, and our understanding matures. I had grown a somewhat pitiful and scraggly beard by this time, and I came home from school one day when mom had two new children in her care. Just old enough to walk well, I think they heard me outside and were looking out the storm door as I arrived. As I opened the door one child spun and toddled off screaming, the other threw up her arms to be picked up. Turns out the delighted child had a father with a beard, while the other child had no experience with hairy men.
Clearly, the life you have with your caregivers is shaping your worldview from the earliest days of your life. So are your inherent characteristics, elements we consider part of our personhood and personalities. As we make our way through life, our friends, lovers, relatives, peers, acquaintances, organizations, and institutions all weigh in as we sort out our world. So at any given point in our lives we have a worldview. Worldview is defined in Wikipedia as: “A worldview or world-view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual’s or society’s knowledge and point of view. A worldview can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics. Worldviews are often taken to operate at a conscious level, directly accessible to articulation and discussion, as opposed to existing at a deeper, pre-conscious level, such as the idea of “ground” in Gestalt psychology and media analysis.” I think your worldview operates at every level of your being.
So, from your earliest thoughts, you are shaping the world into a worldview. Taking in a selection of all the various things around you and building an understanding to guide your thoughts, feelings, decisions, and the resulting actions. Often though, our worldview is inconsistent and confusing, in conflict, sometimes with everyone around us. Today, many Americans feel that these conflicts threaten our place and opportunities in life, perhaps even the existence of our country.
In worldviews, perspective is often critical, because a narrower view and a broader view can bring new light to your thoughts. One day at work a teammate was regaling me with the story of strange choices, behaviors, and conflicts surrounding one of their projects. Somewhat breathlessly they exclaimed, “It’s crazier than it’s ever been!”. I thought for a moment, and quietly said, “think back”. They in turn thought for a moment, and then said, “Oh yeah, never mind.”
A widened look that reaches across this time and back through the ages can only conclude that conflict, and even horror, have always been with us. Empires rise and fall, people are imprisoned and set free, the world goes to war and then shrinks back from the atrocities of their own devising.
So, if you step back again, and look at this broader sweep of human experience, where does this expectation for a better world come from? History and observation only allow for the possibility of scattered and fleeing peace or comfort, amidst a world of conflict, terror, and hatred. Yet at the same time, often even amid the worst of it, people experience moments of peace, love, and understanding as they connect with specific people, or focus only on their actual direct experiences of the moment.
This was one of the first deeper concepts in the Bible that open to me as I grappled with my own struggles and as I listen to people pour out from the depth of their agony the question as to how there could be a good God ruling over a terrible and terrifying world? The Bible answers this question quite directly and in a single paragraph.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:18-25 NLT
One of the instances I have never forgotten, one that has haunted me, was an encounter in junior high with an ever so earnest girl, laying out her faith before me in a wholehearted and honest effort to win me over and save my soul. I don’t remember how our conversation (or argument?) Unfolded, but I remember clearly how I put a stop to it. “So, you’re really trying to convince me that this whole world is about us? That the whole universe and everything in it is just created for people?” I have consoled myself since that conversation with some confidence that I did not shake her faith, but rather took her to the point where her imagination failed to provide a quick answer to such an absolute proposition. But this is obviously precisely what the Bible tells us. Hope springs eternal because the hope of God is baked into the entirety of his creation. At the same time, our fall, and the seeming hopelessness of our nature and situations is a part of what had to unfold. It allows for the creation of imperfect people on the way to becoming children of God. Not just His children, but heirs and household members of His Kingdom that rules over creation. Isaiah describes God’s world as:
Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses
and confiscate their vineyards.
For my people will live as long as trees,
and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains.
They will not work in vain,
and their children will not be doomed to misfortune.
For they are people blessed by the Lord,
and their children, too, will be blessed.
I will answer them before they even call to me.
While they are still talking about their needs,
I will go ahead and answer their prayers!
The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
But the snakes will eat dust.
In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Isaiah 65:22-25 NLT