One of my favorite things about newborns is the thousand faces they make in a minute.
Especially as they sleep, they cycle through this amazing array of expressions: from peaceful to puzzled to pensive, all in mere seconds. One moment their eyebrows are arched in wonder; the next they’re scrunched in agony. As if the face is practicing for all the emotions they’ll have to display as adults: contentment, anger, sadness, bliss.
Lately I’ve been gazing at T during our quiet moments after nursing, and I marvel at all his faces. I can never capture the fleeting (and, ok, gas-induced) grins on camera, so I content myself with soaking them up as they come and – just as quickly – go.
Watching his thousand faces today, I got to marveling that it is the special gift of a newborn face to have so many expressions and emotions flash across it in a minute. But then I realized that most days, my face shows the same multitude of feelings, just stretched out over longer intervals of time.
I wake with groggy eyes and heavy lids. Which transform into a look of concern as I pick up the crying baby. I smile peacefully at him while he nurses. But then my eyebrows shoot up at the sound of his brother rousing, and I sigh as I set down the sleeping cheurb to dash into the shower before getting S.
Breakfast brings its own range of expressions: eye rolls at the latest political squabbles overheard on the radio; funny faces exaggerated to cheer up the cranky, hungry toddler; exasperated and furrowed brow as I tell him yet again to stop pulling the dog’s tail.
As the day goes on, I laugh, I yell, I sing, I soothe. I alternately smile wide and grit my teeth. I lose my temper and regain my calm. On the bad days, I cry; on the good days, I laugh so hard it hurts. And each day my energy rises and lags,my face always revealing the ups and down of life with littles – equal parts delight and frustration.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that the face of God must look like this, too.
In a single instant, God is both rejoicing and grieving – at all the good and the evil we do to each other. God weeps and delights. God watches and waits. Scripture tells us that God gets angry, but also relents; God punishes, but also forgives.
God’s face must never look the same for long, as our many loves and failures, joys and sins, give more than enough to respond to every minute. It’s a comforting thought for a mothering spirit whose temper and emotions often change like the sea – and can be just as stormy.
If we could glimpse the face of God, perhaps it would look like a newborn’s: one instant blissful, one instant sorrowful. A mystery for those of us who watch and try to figure out what’s going on inside.