“We have a special bookshelf,” they were explaining to an older visitor. “When you take a book, there’s another book behind it! And when you pull out that book, there’s another book behind it! And when you pull out that book, a monster jumps out to eat you!”
The four-year-old was holding some Legos about an inch in front of the adult’s nose. “Can you see this?” No, the adult said, they’re too close to my eyes. He held them right up by his own eyes. “I can see them,” he said. The adult explained that when you get older your eyes aren’t able to see things you used to see. “Why?” he wanted to know. Because, the adult said, when you grow up you lose your super powers. The child pondered this. “Why?” he said again. The adult said that’s the reason adults can’t see all the things that children see; they’ve lost their super powers.
Fourteen years old, she was at a promotion ceremony from middle to high school. Her school—both middle and high—is part of the classical education movement, and it sets itself forth as dedicated to the true, the good, and the beautiful. There were a hundred-some students there, all sitting with their families. One of the speakers—a graduating senior—was giving advice. Hang onto your friends, she said. Talk to your parents. Make your bed. Read your books. You will meet heroes and villains. Among the latter she mentioned Viktor Frankenstein.
(Yours truly winces at the mention of Frankenstein’s Christian name.)
Another speaker had lost part of her family in an awful car crash. She was told she’d never walk again. She had to grow up fast—and manifestly, through hard work and much support, she was now walking. She said her childhood died the day of that car crash. And yet, she said, our childhood never dies.
The grandfather stole a glance at his granddaughter, losing her childhood and yet, somehow, not yet, not altogether.
When he was a boy, the adult remembers, he felt angels at night sometimes. They were there in the bedroom. He thinks he occasionally saw them, but recalls no particular message, just the sense of a presence.
If any boy ever had super powers, Samuel did. In the night he heard God calling his name, but he didn’t know it was God. The adult taking care of him figured it out. He told Samuel to stay in his bed and say: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
And the question is, Were Samuel’s super powers in what he heard—or in how he responded?
This adult thinks that all our childhoods continue forever in that part of us which remains alive to that monster who might leap from a bookshelf, which has eyes to see a wounded child walk, which thinks God might have a conversation with us.
At the airport, I heard an announcement from the gate for Austin Powers to come forward. I resisted the impulse.
Out & About. I am to preach at Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, on Trinity Sunday, June 4, at the traditional services: 7:30, 9, and 11:15 a.m.