A chance encounter at the Bloomsbury Festival some years ago encourages some reflection on perspectives.
The size bit is obvious. I can’t imagine what the toddler thought of this encounter, when I am sure ordinary sized adults seem large enough! For most of us it is the ‘human scale’ that we live with. We cope with ourselves as individuals and our families, friends and colleagues, but even then often struggle with seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint. An even broader perspective becomes more difficult.
The recent referendum in Scotland highlighted that in one nation it is hard to grasp the perspective of another and then many others have wondered if the view from Westminster includes anywhere other than London or the South-East, yet all are part of the United Kingdom. We find ourselves confronted by complex political issues which, while affecting the lives of individuals, seem too vast to get our heads around.
The matter of age or generation is also illustrated. Here is another aspect of human relationships where understanding between one and another often seems impossible. It might be described as youth and wisdom, but sometimes one wonders where wisdom is truly to be found.
The other obvious element in the illustrated encounter is that of reality. It is not easy for the very young who absorb fairy stories and Disney films rather quicker than right and wrong. Even for the ‘grown ups’ who are meant to know better life is often lived in ways that are not very grounded. There are many realities that we turn a blind eye to for the sake of an easier existence.
The toddler in the photo is trying to make sense of their world. It is a task that perhaps we never fulfil. From a Christian viewpoint we bring the God who is known in Jesus Christ into the picture. We catch a glimpse of the loving purpose that brought all into existence at the outset. We learn that the way things are can be changed through a sense of justice and an acceptance of forgiveness. We are invited to enter a relationship that will last for eternity and not just the moment. Making sense of life and the world involves being honest about ourselves, taking others seriously and exploring who and how God is – in order than we can know and love each. Length, breadth and height give us the perspectives to make visual sense. Me, you and God give us the perspectives to make spiritual sense.
Preparing a Harvest Festival service coupled with baptisms has led to thoughts around fresh starts. The tendency is to think of harvest as the end of the year for the farming community, but in reality the cycle continues. Preparations are already in hand for the next year’s crops and so on … Life in general can often feel the same. ‘What goes around come around.’ is a common saying and even an opportunity for a fresh start like the New Year, with half-hearted resolutions, carries little hope of significant changes coming about. And life is full of new beginnings – starting school, change in job, marriage, new home, retirement etc. – but human nature remains stubbornly similar before and after.
Another fresh start can come when we are forgiven for something we have done. The future can be different, unencumbered by guilt. This is where a faith in Jesus Christ finds its significance. If a Christian life was just about following his example or teaching, then human nature will likely make it a mockery. But at the heart of what Jesus is about is God’s love and forgiveness and there lies the opportunity for real change and a meaningful fresh start.
Baptism is the mark of grasping this God-given opportunity. The water indicates a washing away of the past and, while human nature might easily draw us back into the cycle of ‘what goes around comes around’, Baptism is also about openness to the Holy Spirit, the power of God within to overcome our natural inclinations.