Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Object and Godly Permanence

It has been interesting to watch the process of recognition a baby goes through. In utero, Grant was totally dependent upon me. As a newborn, he faintly recognized sounds and scents which helped him to continue to trust and rely on Jake and me. As he got a little older and started to recognize us physically, he began to rely completely on that sense. If he could see me, he knew I was there and would take care of him and fill his current need. If he couldn't see me, it was almost as if I never existed. He couldn't comprehend that there was someone who always picked him up or fed him when he cried, so he couldn't trust that this person would continue to do so. This lasted for months, until the magical day when he was around six months old and began to understand the concept of object permanence--that objects still exist even when they are out of sight.

I noticed that in the middle of the night when he was crying, I could stand next to his crib and pat his back to calm him, even when he couldn't see me (he has a habit of squeezing his eyes shut tight when he cries at night). The next signs I recognized were his ability to trust my voice to calm him until he could see my face, knowing that if he could hear me that he would soon be able to see me. He's heard my voice chattering pretty much non-stop since his earbuds began capturing sound, and over time he associated my voice with the help that was soon to follow. Even when there are other noises and distractions he can zero in on the voice he knows so well.

Within a few weeks, Grant was starting to enjoy playing peek-a-boo, which is another milestone in the object permanence process. I could see his mind working and growing as he learned that when I put a blanket over his toy, that he could remove the blanket and find his toy still there. This time he had no physical sense to prove that the toy was still there, but he had experience on his side now. Every time we played the game, it turned out the same. He could still see the object in his mind, even though he couldn't see it with his eyes, and that allowed him to understand that he could still access his toy quickly.

I've been fascinated with this concept since Grant was born, because I think it is the same process we all go through in life. Before we came to this earth, we lived with our Father and were totally dependent upon Him. We knew what He looked like and how His voice sounded. After our physical birth, I believe Heavenly Father stays very near to us. Our childlike faith carried us on. But as life progresses, our faith is challenged. We want more than our faith, we want proof that God is real. We want to see Him, or at least an undeniable sign observed with our physical senses that He is there. Over time, we can learn that He can exist even if we can't see Him, and through the Holy Ghost we can hear His voice in our hearts and minds. Even when (especially when) there are other noises and distractions in life, we can train ourselves to recognize and find solace in the voice of the Spirit. It takes practice, but I testify that the recognition will come.

But even if that were to be silenced or questioned, hopefully we can each rely on our past experiences to fortify our faith in God (He's always been there for me before, He's always taken care of my needs. Why not now?). I don't have to rely on my physical senses to know that God is real. I can still see Him in my mind, and that allows me to understand that I can still access Him quickly through prayer.

Job 37: 2 --Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.

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