God thoughts.


I sat on a train in New York City, with my new babe wrapped snuggly against my chest when I saw a woman yawn. It was a small thing, that yawn, but witnessing it gave way to a big thought, for in the days and nights since my daughter’s birth, I have delighted in watching her teensy, tiny mouth stretch open. Her yawns are beautiful to me.

Soon without even trying, I pictured the yawning woman as a yawning baby. Was she fawned over and delighted in? Did someone study her face for hours and rejoice over each changing expression? Did that person find her yawns beautiful? I hoped very much that that was the case.

Soon after that, I looked at the faces of our co-passengers. Some were young. Others were old. Many ethnicities were represented. As I gazed at them, my strongest thought was: “They must have been beautiful babies.”

I shared the thought without the story on facebook, and one of my friends wrote that it reminded her of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith: “The main character of the book looks at gruff old men whose shoes have holes and are worn down. Their toes are exposed through the holes, and the girl looks at them and imagines their mamas kissing their feet as little babies and loving them.”

Now it reminds me of that, too, but it also reminds me of another book, Les Misérables. Among the many beautiful and important lines is this, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I wonder if it could go the other way as well, if it might also be the case that to see the face of another person is to love God.


What thoughts or experiences have helped you look at others in a more Godlike way? 

How do those thoughts or experiences change the way that you relate to them? 

(A few days after my train experience, I found myself walking amidst many New York strangers. A tad bit overwhelmed, I thought, “There are so many people.” And then I thought something else: “And I want to smile at all of them.” So I tried.)


Rachel is a PhD student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. She co-edited _Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings_ with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She is also a lover of all things books and bikes.

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14 Responses

  1. Bones says:

    My first experience like this was also on a train–the Paris subway in 1988. It was my first trip outside the western US. I stood in a packed metro car and suddenly time stood still. In the next moments I was able to see that each person in there was equally loved by God. It was a gift and it shattered my childhood teachings that people in my religion were God’s chosen. Since then I’ve devoted my life and career to trying to break down barriers and build bridges of understanding. Then last year, the same thing happened in Beijing. It was a Friday night, and I was taking the subway to the silk market before ending a week-long business trip. As the weekend approached, the migrant workers were all going home with their HUGE bundles on their backs. Their faces were the most beautiful I’ve ever seen–lined, tanned, and even dirty. it was remarkable and was a sign to me that i’m still on the right path.

  2. Chelsi says:

    I’ve thought this before as well. I hope all babies are loved. This is a great post <3

  3. liz johnson says:

    This is really poignant and timely, because lately I’ve been having almost the inverse thought. I know (and know of) so many people who are viewed as “monsters” or “terrible people” as adults, and I keep looking at my babies and thinking “Even those people were probably beautiful babies, who had mamas that loved them… what if my beautiful babies end up doing horrible things?!”

    Really, I think both of these things help me see other people as beautiful children of God, regardless of whether they’ve done good or terrible things with their lives. They were all beautiful babies, and there is still beauty in them, regardless of whether they’ve done good or terrible things.

  4. Caroline says:

    Lovely thoughts, Rachel.

    ““To love another person is to see the face of God.” I wonder if it could go the other way as well, if it might also be the case that to see the face of another person is to love God.”

    I really like your inversion. I definitely think that to see another person — truly see them and their humanity with compassion and generosity — is indeed to love God. I think we probably best love God by loving other people.

  5. Jessawhy says:

    Thank you for this post. Your insight is really lovely and warms my heart. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep or the miracle of a new baby, but I felt like I had occasional insights into human nature and being closer to God when I had a new baby.

  6. Brem says:

    Yawning babies are the best.

  7. Melody says:

    Thank you for taking us with you on the train. You’re a beautiful soul. I’d rather not comment more. I just want to be quiet and take this in. Merry Christmas and happy baby.

  8. Naomi says:

    What a great post.

  9. EmilyCC says:

    I’m sorry if this is a downer…before I had my first child, I worked at a home for abused and abandoned teenage girls. I remember holding my newborn and crying that I loved this child in a way that my girls at that home had never been loved. But, I love the reminder that we are all loved by our Heavenly Parents with a love so pure.

    Thank you for this beautiful post. This is something I need to remember.

  10. Robert says:

    I needed this today.

  11. Sally says:

    Beautiful, beautiful post.

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