Descartes Got It Wrong!

25 May 2015

Well, that's what we heard last week at a fascinating conference for parents at the International School.  Dr. Douglas Ota, an expert in helping parents get their children successfully through the adjustment period after an international move, mentioned that Descartes' famous dictum Cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am") should be replaced by "I am seen, therefore I am".

Ota explained the importance of a parent's look of awareness as a child deals with being unseen and misunderstood in a new context.  We never outgrow the need for safe attachments and relationships.  He did not appeal to Scripture in his presentation, but I was reminded of how crucial relationships are, simply because we are made in God's image.  He is relational within himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And so we reach out for the very same stable loving bonds with one another.  

The Old Testament character Hagar came to mind.  Obsessed with jealousy over this younger woman by whom Abraham had managed to conceive a son, Sarai put her young slave out of the house--she was a competitor for Abraham's affections and a reproach to Sarai's own sterility (Genesis 16:7-14).  Hagar left for the Egyptian border and met the angel of the Lord at a spring of water on the way to Shur.  The angel told her to return to Sarai and submit to her authority.  She would have a son who would grow up into a combative man living to the east of his brothers.  Hagar always remembered that experience and called God "El-roi"--"You are a God who sees".  The well where she met the angel was called "Beer-lahai-roi"--"the well of the living one who sees me".  Years later Hagar fled again at Abraham's insistence; the conflict with her boss had not abated after Isaac's birth (Genesis 21:8-21).  She ended up with her son Ishmael--the father of the Arab peoples--in the wilderness of Beersheba, a desolate region.  Out of water and resigned to Ishmael's death, she dragged him under a bush and said, "I do not want to see my son die".  But the angel of the Lord reappeared to her to comfort her. After two banishments, God still saw her. Being seen by God is our security as it was hers.

If God sees His people, parents must do the same for their children.  Yet so many things move us in the opposite direction as our eyes are distracted by the ever-present screens of TV and the computer in all its forms.  We're wise to take Dr. Ota's common-sense advice, which the Bible told us about long ago.  Our security rests in God's seeing us.  Our children's security in our seeing them and making sure they know it.

Last modified on Monday, 25 May 2015 19:55