Learning to Love
My youngest grandchild, Danny, is three and a half months old. He’s an exceptional child of course, as any grandparent worth their salt will tell you about any of their grandchildren. It has been fascinating to watch his development. I choose that word ‘development’ with intent. Although I doubt that you will find it in any of the myriads of books about baby development, right now he is learning to love.
From birth, babies have an instinctive focus on self. And so, like all babies, Danny cries when he has a need such as when he is hungry, or sleepy, or he needs a fresh diaper, or he just needs to be comforted. That is when he is focused on his own self and his biological and emotional needs. But what intrigues me most is when he is focused outward. It is more and more noticeable these days.
I’m not sure how clear his vision is yet, but there is no doubt that his eye catches people and objects and he turns his head to stay focused on them. And he is getting grabby with his hands, reaching out to grasp a toy or a finger. I think it is fascinating how soon babies are aware of the people and things around them. I would argue that he is already learning to love.
The reason that I say this, is that real love always flows outward. If there were an inward nature at all to love, then we would not exist. The ability, the interest, the desire to love then is natural in us; it is who we really are as beings created in the image and likeness of God. As St. John tells us: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” 1 John 4:16.
The very fact that we and all creation even exist proves that love must flow outward; otherwise, God would have had no motivation to share his love in creation. Love desires deepening expression.
I firmly believe that little Danny is fixing his eyes on others, reaching out to connect, as the building blocks of love. For proof I would offer his ready willingness to smile. A smile, like love, goes both directions at once. The baby smiles because he feels happy, and it is a soul to be pitied that does not melt in a baby’s smile and yield to the ready urge to smile back. I ask you, in that kind of moment. is that not love at its basic core?
It is this ability that I pray continues to grow, to flourish, to express itself all throughout Danny’s life. If so, he will be truly happy, and all creation, especially those who encounter him in some personal way will also be truly happy. How could God resist smiling at that possibility?