Psalm 51: Natal TraumaFriday, February 24, 2012
You probably don't need me to remind you of this, but there's nothing less innocent than childhood. You see the moral dilemma of children when quite young. For example, have you ever seen the body of a yet wordless infant stiffen up in anger? You know the scene. It's nap time. You've fed and changed him. You've sung every song known to human culture and finally he's asleep. You make your way to the door of the room and just as you're ready to make your escape, you hear this ear-piercing scream. You turn around and there he is, red-faced and with his entire body rigid with anger. Now you have to visit what's going on there. Clearly, this little one isn't suffering out of need. All of his needs have been taken care of. No, he's angry, and he's angry because at that moment you're not doing what he wants you to do. His rigid-body scream is saying, "Mommy, I love you and I have a wonderful plan for your life!"
Or consider this scenario. You take your five year old to Toys R Us. You place him in the cart and you aim the cart down the middle of those wide aisles. You do that because you don't want Johnny to be able to grab everything his heart desires. You get through the store without too much conflict and you find yourself in that final checkout aisle. Now this aisle is designed to be a conspiracy against your parenting, because at eye level and quite reachable are those $6.95 to $8.95, blister-wrapped items. So Johnny says to you, "Mommy, I want one of those." You say, "Johnny, mommy is not going to buy you anything else." Johnny says, "But Mommy, It's a "Captain X Bonco Figure" and I don't have any of them. Billy has all of them. He even has the play station that goes with it. I'm the only boy I know that has to go to someone else's house just to hold a Bonco figure." You say, "Johnny, I already said that I'm not going to buy you anything else." "Johnny says, "Mommy, if you buy this for me, I'll never ever ask for anything ever again. You say, "Johnny, you mustn't ask for that Bonco figure again, this puzzle is the only thing I'm going to buy today." At that point, Johnny begins to scream. It's embarrassing to have this encounter take place as people are waiting behind you to check out.
Now, let's examine this moment. Johnny doesn't want a mom to provide for him. Johnny doesn't want a God to provide for him. No, Johnny wants to be that God. Johnny wants to think and it will happen, he wants to speak and it will be done, and if you stand in Johnny's way, there will be hell to pay!
You see, when David says, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me, " he's exposing the ultimate natal trauma. There's a deeper birth trauma than the physical suffering that both mother and child must endure in order for the child to be born. No, the deeper, more profound trauma is the devastating reality that you can't stop yourself from giving birth to a sinner. It happens 100% of the time. It's the natal disease for which there is no inoculation.
But there's more to be said about this universal natal trauma. When David says that he was sinful from birth, he's talking about something more significant than the fact that even babies do bad things. He's actually pointing to why babies do bad things. Being a sinner is about the disease of the heart behind the aberrant behavior. The moral problem of babies is not first about behavior. They have a behavioral problem because they want their own way. They want to live in the center of their own little universe. They want to be the kings and queens of their own little kingdoms. So, they are innately self-focused and rebellious. They've their own agenda and they don't want to serve the will of another. That's why the infant stiffens his body at nap time and the little boy starts screaming in the checkout aisle of Toys R Us. Both instances of bad behavior are rooted in the most horrible of natal diseases, an idolatrous heart.
This is precisely why David prays for mercy. If my problem is congenital idolatry, then I need something more than systems of behavior modification and emotional management. I need the rescuing mercy of a Redeemer, who'll take my guilt on himself, who'll take residence inside of me, and who'll continue to persevere until I've been completely cured of the disease that's infected me since birth; sin. Thankfully, that Redeemer has come and his grace is up to the task!