It began with a simple question: are babies born with depth perception? To test this, scientists placed a baby on one end of a plexiglass surface. On the other side, they placed a toy and the child’s mother. Halfway across, the baby encountered what looked like a sudden drop. What would the baby do?
You can watch an example of the experiment below.
The study’s interesting because of what it teaches us about depth perception, but it’s also interesting because of how the babies react to their mothers. It’s an exercise in social reassurance. When mothers were instructed to show fear — raising eyebrows, widening eyes, and opening mouths — babies tended to stop. When mothers were instructed to smile or encourage the baby with nods, the babies tended to cross the barrier.
I’ve been thinking about how this applies not just to babies, but to us.
Death is an enemy. As Mike Wittmer writes, it’s an enemy that will one day steal from us everything and everyone we have loved. It’s a “patient, stubborn enemy. It survives longer than Satan and is the last thing thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20: 10, 14). We know that someday it will come for us.”
Talk about a cliff that’s scary to cross.
God gives us clues, though, that it’s safe to cross. Jesus has defeated death. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. God gives us every assurance that we can keep coming to him, even when facing death.
It reminds me of the end of The Pilgrim’s Progress:
Then they both took courage and crossed the river, and the enemy was as still as a stone. Christian soon found solid ground to stand on, and the rest of the river was shallow. So Christian and Hopeful crossed over the river and arrived on the other side.
I hate death. There’s every reason to fear it. But a look at God and his promises is enough to help us. His smile reassures us that we can cross safely into his presence, even when facing the scariest drop-off of our lives.