For this is what the LORD says: "I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees." - Isaiah 66:12
Existential Dread (E.D.) is the realization that life is, at its core, meaningless. I've often suffered from this condition, and this blog reflects on the solution I've found. My sense of meaninglessness, despair, and death pointed to a definitive need: God, the ultimate answer to the ultimate question, able to be found through contemplation, meditation, prayer, and study. Achieving peace, stability, knowledge, and self-actualization through centering myself in God provided an escape from a noisy and fast-paced life with demanding expectations, often meaningless interactions, and short-lived pleasures.
So what’s with the word dandle?
Well, it happened at church, actually - mine being a little house church where we meet together, pray, sing songs and read the Bible. Simple religion. And then, during the period of weeks where I was thinking about what to write, the point of it all, even the blog’s title, I heard the above scripture from Isaiah, the one about dandling.
While my little church was supposed to be silently contemplating the depths of the mysteries of God, we actually just started giggling at the word “dandle”. Nobody talks about dandling anymore! We play with our children, but we don’t dandle them - not unless we’re nannies in Edwardian England. Another translation reads “fondle”. More laughter from the audience. God fondles us? For obvious reasons I chose the word “dandle” (I felt FondleBlog would send the wrong message, not to mention pull up some awkward sites on Google). But despite our immaturity, lack of extensive vocabulary, and a general 12-year-old mentality that laughs at any word or phrase that even hints at a bodily function or sexual act, we could all recognize the joy seen in a baby’s eyes when placed on our knees and bounced around, while the bouncer tells the bouncee that this, in fact, is how the gentlemen ride. Etc. That’s dandling.
When I heard the word “dandle,” I thought, surely this is how God relates to those who seek Him in prayer and contemplation. What better way to describe our goal as Christians than use a word given to describe the joy a parent finds in the presence of his or her baby by simply sitting it on their knees and, well, dandling?
In the scripture from Isaiah, the idea is that the tenderest care would be exercised for God’s people; the same care which an affectionate mother displays for her children. In Jerusalem, God dwells and judges, and it’s assumed that if Jerusalem comforts and “dandles” her people, it's God who does the dandling - after all, a city is composed of inanimate objects, a bunch of stone. The meaning's not that they should be born upon the sides and dandled on the knees of just Zion the city; but that God would manifest to them the feelings of a parent and treat them with maternal tenderness as a mother (or any non-creepy relative) affectionately dandles children on her knees. God’s people don't need to worry about anything but sitting on His knees and receiving the blessing of His presence. When children dandle on the knees of Mom or Dad, they're the exceedingly great delight of their parents; a parable that reflects what happens in God when we come to Him in prayer, not just to ask Him for things, but primarily just to be, to sit on His knees or, as Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus did, to sit at His feet. And in return for our being, our dandling in His presence, exerting effort only to arrive and then to rest, the divine comforts reach the inward man; and the delight and joy of the Lord becomes the strength of the believer.
So, let there be dandling! And it was so . . .