I don’t remember why, but I wanted to cry. I was four years old. My mother had tucked me into bed in the only bedroom in the upstairs apartment at 733 S. 24th St. in Manitowoc. It might have been because I missed my father who was gone, flying B-26 bombers in the Korean War. I’m not sure why, but I do remember just wanting to cry.
When my mother heard me, she came into the bedroom, and without saying a word or turning on a light, she picked me up, carried me into the front room, sat down on a rocking chair and began to rock me as she held me in her arms. In those days street lights were strung over the middle of the street on a wire between two telephone poles. The light with its sombrero hat reflector swung in the breeze casting dancing shadows on the snow outside and on the living room walls. My mother didn’t say a word as she rocked, but I understood what she was saying. My crying gradually stopped, and I fell asleep.
I’ve never seen God face to face. I’ve never heard Jesus speak directly to me. Every spiritual contact has, at best, been mediated and ambiguous. Erik Erickson says that the development task in the first years of life is trust vs. mistrust. I don’t, of course, remember anything from the earliest years, but this memory of being rocked is vivid in my memory.