Before we had our first miracle baby we read the book “The Social Baby” which shows that even from birth babies are wired to seek faces over other images:
“Within minutes of birth, the baby will turn her head to the sound of someone’s voice, when another sound, even if of the same pitch and intensity, will not attract her attention…the baby is also attracted to faces…Given a choice between looking at a face-shaped pattern, and one with the arrangement of eyes nose and mouth scrambled up, the newborn baby will spend longer looking at the face”
Recent research has now identified that the part of the brain used for recognising faces is far more developed in babies and is almost equal to that of adults by even 4 months.
As Christians we don’t believe that this design is merely for survival, we believe that the things made reveal God’s divine nature (Rom 1:20a) for “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1).
In the same way the physical tabernacle was “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb 8:5), this physical realm is a shadow of the spiritual realm. A baby seeking the face of his/her parents is a shadow of the reality that we as children of God (1 Jn 3:1) are designed to seek the face of our Creator.
“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18)
In the Father’s face we are going to find the love, affirmation and protection that we need.
A baby know this – they take delight in looking at faces. Children know this as any parent who hears a their child say “look at me!”. This is why God instructed Aaron to bless the Israelites with the phrase “the LORD make His face shine upon you” (Num 6:23-25).
To have God’s face turn from us is to be cursed and cut off from our hearts desire (eg Ps 27:9; 2 Chr 30:9). Babies know this – they become distressed if there is no response from a parent’s face (you can see an example in this YouTube video).
We are wired to seek the Father’s face, to have His face shine upon us and to have Him respond to us. But not just a father’s face but the mother’s face too:
“A babies vision is a little blurry at birth but within a week a baby can focus on objects about 8 to 12 inches from his face which is the distance between a mother and baby’s face during feeding.”
One of the names for God used in the Old Testament is “El Shaddai” which is translated as “God Almighty” in places like Gen 17:1 and Gen 49:25. Now shaddai could be come from the root “shadad” which means powerful (hence Almighty) or “shad” which means breast. If it is the latter root then “El Shaddai” could be translated as “many breasted one” (sources: here and here). Implying that God, like a mother, is our comfort, our sufficiency, our nourisher.
Given the current environment there are parties that sit firmly on both sides, each fiercely arguing that their version is correct translation. The complementarians will argue that it’s a powerful, strong masculine God, the egalitarians will argue it’s a nurturing, tender, feminine God.
I believe that both are incorrect. Each side only sees one part when both parts are needed*. You see we are made male and female in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and only both together represent the fullness of God”†:
“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam” (Gen 5:2 KJV).
Adam was created in the image of God as one being – both male and female (Gen 2:7). This is a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Father and the Son being intimately one (Jn 10:30) and indeed his nature of Oneness despite many opposing characteristics (eg grace/mercy vs truth/judgement).
Adam was then separated into two: male and female (Gen 2:22-23 the word rib is literally “side”) as a shadow of the plurality of the nature of God (both in the Trinity and His nature). But designed to become one again (Gen 2:24). Hence the fullness of the image of God on earth is male and female together as one.
So babies are wired to look into the face of their parents and receive all the love, affirmation, protection, comfort, nourishment from them. This is the shadow of the spiritual reality of us as God’s children looking to Him (whose nature includes both masculine and feminine aspects) and receive all that we need from Him, our all-in-all:
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:3-4)
* Why then does Jesus say we should call Him father and why is Jesus the Bridegroom if God is both masculine and feminine? This requires us to understand how sexuality reflects the relationships in the Godhead and between God and man, which will be covered in a later post.
† So does that mean that only married people image God? Not entirely, because ultimately the one flesh union of a husband and wife is also a shadow of the union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32). Perhaps this post might help. And so if you’re single, you image God by being one with the Body of Christ becoming one with Christ.