In my younger years, I served with an older and more experienced pastor who once said something that stuck with me. He said, “I think one of the most creative things God ever made was a human face.” I am inclined to agree with him.

For the past several years, Dr. Edward Tronick, at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has been conducting research on the importance of personal connection between a new mother and her infant during the important first year of development. Part of his research includedplacing a young baby into a seat. He directed themother of the child to lean toward her baby, smiling, widening her eyes, playing peekaboo and this-little-piggy. Dr. Tronick notes how the baby squeals, responding to his mother’s coos in the kind of baby “conversation” that is crucial to the development of speech and healthy attachment in the first years of life.

Then, he had the mother turn away for a moment, and when she turns back, she’s asked to set her face in a blank expression as she looks at her baby. Not an angry face. Just void of any kind of expression.

Dr. Tronick reports that “The baby makes a series of bids for his mother’s attention. Smiling, giggling, squealing, arching his back, clapping his hands, reaching for her, pointing—pulling out his whole baby bag of tricks. But mother’s face is like stone. Baby looks confused, then starts biting his fist uncertainly, twisting around to peek at the researcher.

Finally, he slumped in his seat and started to wail, red-faced, and his mother broke her expression and comforted him. It had only been a few minutes; there’s been no discomfort for the baby, no scolding. And yet, it’s fascinating that a lack of facial connection and response hadsuch a profound affect.  They found that a four-month-old baby seems to remember that brief experience up to two weeks later, and will freak out even more quickly.

In the 80th Psalm, you might say the writer is asking God to pay attention to where He’s looking. Three times, in v. 3, in v. 9, and again in v. 13 of Ps. 80, the Song Writer asks The God of Heaven’s Armies, ‘Make your face shine down upon us; only then will we be saved.’ I suppose if I imagine God having a blank stare on His face as he looks at my life from his vantage point in heaven, it would make me want to cry. It’s one thing to imagine God with an angry look on his face. But if I thought God’s face was void of any loving expression as he walked alongside me every day … I’d squirm like one of those babies.

The question is not how does God look at me. The question is how do I look at God. In those same three verses in Ps. 80, are these words: “Turn us again to yourself.” There’s never a doubt about the smile on God’s face when he thinks of his children. The only one who needs to pay attention to where they’re looking is me — not Him.

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)


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