Monday, January 7, 2008

Child-like Surprise

I was reflecting on this last Christmas, and on what is the nature of the pleasure derived by parents in giving gifts to their children. It is often been observed that the concept of the “self-less” act is an illusion because everyone derives some benefit from their actions, otherwise they would not perform them. The question is not, “is this act self-less?” It is instead, “is the reason for this act acceptable?” Therefore, parents giving gifts to children falls under the category of (not “self-less” motivation) but acceptable motivation.

What then is that “acceptable” motivation? I’d like to posit a guess. It is the pleasure derived for the giver from observing the pleasure of the receiver. The look of surprise on the face of the child when the gift is revealed makes all other motivations shrink to insignificance. It is an acceptable motivation for the giver to admit the great joy they will receive as a result of the pleasure of the receiver. Can anything compare to the look of glee on the face of your child when the wrapping is torn off and the toy is out of the box?

The Bible suggests that God derives a similar pleasure from watching our reactions to his grace and love as well. Out of his love for us it would appear that he receives great pleasure from observing our joy over his gifts. It’s not that we over anthropomorphize the Father when we ascribe to him attributes of a loving early father (deriving joy from his child’s righteous pleasure). It is quite possibly more accurate to suggest that we rightly “theo-morphize” good fathers who are pleased by their children’s joy. We are not wrongly seeing God as like us in this fatherly dynamic. We are instead rightly seeing man as having received this dynamic of good fathering from the Father.

Therefore, the subject of prayer, and specifically the answer to prayer, is better understood in the context of this fatherly understanding. I suspect that God invites us to pray and ask him to meet our needs because of the pleasure he will derive from observing our response of child-like surprise.

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