Years ago, I was on a weekend retreat with a group of high school students. The speaker was trying to explain the concept of original sin. He used his toddler daughter as an example, saying something along the lines of, "We're selfish from the moment we emerge from the womb!"
William has taken to having tantrums lately. He has a number of demands: "Tar! Tar" (guitar) "wacum!" (vacuum) "a-ting!" (painting) and "ay-do" (play doh), are the most prevalent. When I say no, he stamps his feet and screams. Which may well be a picture of original sin. He wants what he wants and he wants it now, no matter whether it's good for him or good for those around him.
And yet there's another strain at work in him as well. Take, for instance, a few nights ago, when we sat down to dinner (Penny was at her grandmother's house, so William had center stage). "Pay," he said, and held out his hands (pray). We asked if he wanted to start the prayer. "Tak oo Fadah" (thank you Father...). He sang the whole thing (in his own way). Or then there is his great desire to "help out" around the house. He stands on tiptoes and reaches to "help" me put clothes in the washing machine. He totters around the kitchen, broom in hand, "sweeping the floor."
But it goes farther than having learned a prayer and a cleaning routine. William actually cares about others too. So when our cat threw up the other day, he ran to me, his little forehead furrowed, and said, "Kitty sick!" Or when Penny gets put in time out for clocking him on the head, he runs over to her and gives her a hug.
Sinful through and through?
There is a deep vein of self-centeredness that runs through each and every one of our hearts from the moment we are born (the moment of conception, perhaps). But there is also this deep vein of compassion and goodness and beauty in each of us. The writer of Genesis called it the "image of God." Broken and beautiful, from the start.
And my job as a mother is to point them to the one who can heal the brokenness, and call forth the beauty.