Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"No, I"

Lately Abby, who is just on the cusp of the ripe old age of two, has taken to proclaiming this phrase whenever someone tries to help her with anything she feels capable of doing herself: "No, I!" It doesn't matter whether she's actually capable of doing it herself or not, her immediate response is "No, I," with emphasis on the "I."

What's interesting to me is the complete lack of a verb in this statement. She does not say, "No, I do it," with a focus on whatever it is she wishes to do (usually it's putting her shoes on by herself or climbing in or out of the car or getting down off the changing table). It's as if she herself is both the subject and the verb, her being the very substance of doing--her existence the proof of her ability and capacity and sufficiency.

Even while it frustrates me terribly when we're trying to hurry here or there, I LOVE this statement for all it represents:

The limitless potential of a child.

A spirit as yet unencumbered by the world's nay-saying.

The wondrous confidence of a girl who would never think she is not capable.

This assertion of self speaks, I think, to that which is most precious in a new life: value and worth and treasure wholly apart from usefulness. She is loved because she is. She is capable because she is. She is because she is.

And when I hear her say "No, I," I can't help but think of the words of Someone else who responds, "I AM that I AM" when asked who He is. He does not define himself by a list of accomplishments (Maker of the Universe, Sustainer of All Creation, Divine Redeemer of All Men) nor does He identify himself by his limitless abilities (omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient). He simply is. And that, somehow, is sufficient. His value lies not in what He's doing for us, with us, or in us but rather lies in Him, and Him crucified.

So I do my best to affirm this independence in Abby whenever time allows (and, occasionally, even when time doesn't allow), because I recognize that in some ways, this statement is a true acknowledgment of her as a reflection of the image of Him, even though she may not recognize it as such.

Or maybe she does. Perhaps all children are born into the world with this understanding but grow to disown it as those around them attempt to conform them to the world's image through the knowledge of good and evil. I don't know, and those are realms bigger than I can comprehend. But I do know that my spirit leaps a bit when I hear her say it, my heart resonating with the freedom of its simple truth.

"No, I." Amen.

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