God Speaks

When you love someone, you love him as he is.
I alone am perfect.
It is probably for that reason
That I know what perfection is
And that I demand less perfection of those poor people.
I know how difficult it is.

And how often, when they are struggling in their trials,
How often do I wish and am I tempted to put my hand under their stomachs
In order to hold them up with my big hand
Just like a father teaching his son how to swim
In the current of the river
And who is divided between two ways of thinking.

For on the one hand, if he holds him up all the time and if he holds him too much,
The child will depend on this and will never learn how to swim.
But if he doesn’t hold him up just at the right moment
That child is bound to swallow more water than is healthy for him.
In the same way, when I teach them how to swim amid their trials
I too am divided by two ways of thinking.

Because if I am always holding them up, if I hold them up too often,
They will never learn how to swim by themselves.
But if I don’t hold them up just at the right moment,
Perhaps those poor children will swallow more water than is healthy for them.
Such is the difficulty, and it is a great one.
And such is the doubleness itself, the two faces of the problem.

—from “Freedom” tr. by Ann and Julien Green