angels, babies, and predicting the future

“I know angels can’t see into the future,” I said out loud, “so I’m going to show it to you.”

I was alone in the bathroom. I leaned in close to the mirror, pulled up one hair, and snipped it neatly. Then I held it in two fingers and looked at it in the light and said, “This is the future.”

It’s a grey hair. My otherwise-brown head has four strands of the future growing in it.

Of course, angels can see into the future the same way mothers can. “If you don’t put that away, you’re not going to be able to find it tomorrow.” “If you eat that, you’re not going to be hungry for dinner.”

Thomas Aquinas postulated that angels can’t know the future all that much better than we can in a supernatural sense. That they can look at current events and gauge the likelihood of multiple probable outcomes, but they can’t predict random events or know for certain except by a special act of God.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have infants, and with Kiddo#4, I became convinced his biggest problem was not being able to predict the future.

Let’s say it’s morning, and time to drive to preschool. Kiddo#3 knows that when we drive to preschool, he’s going to spend five minutes in the car. If he’s uncomfortable in his seat, he knows that in four minutes and thirty seconds, he can get out of it. If we’ve passed the fire station, then it’s only about thirty seconds to go.

On the other hand, if I tell him we’re going on vacation, he can predict that we’ll have to sit in the car for three or four hours, and therefore he brings toys and books to keep in the seat with him.

The baby had no understanding that his steady-state could change. When he was in the car seat, for all he knew, we might leave him in that seat forever. Hunger? Wet diaper? Head cold? All these things might or might not ever change. He can’t tell that the trip home from church is exponentially smaller than the trip home from the mountains. And therefore, he panics.

I wasn’t in a panic that morning in the bathroom. I predict a few more years before I become a hair-dye consumer. By the same token, I wasn’t actually telling my guardian anything new or different. In fact, the angel probably could have said, “Based on your genetics and your general nutrition, I’d figured it would happen starting this year.” {Or this month. Or, Thursday. I have no idea how accurate they are. As Riker said, “What, no seconds?”}

A large part of growing up and functioning normally in the world is learning to make accurate plans. I never thought of it as “predicting the future” before.


  1. Cricket

    I hear you about being able to predict the future as being comforting.

    Every room in the school, JK through 8, has a schedule. The younger classes use pictures and include “go home” and have separate lines for “recess” — very important parts of the day. It helps with transitions (they kids know what’s coming next) and it reassures them that, yes, their favourite time will happen.

    My daughter is trying to sleep right now. She’s convinced lying in bed and trying to sleep will never end. (Self-fulfiling prophecy.)

    Do you know the story of Benniah and King Solomon’s Ring? I really need to put up Beve M.’s version All I’ve found online are negative. This one is the closest to Beve’s.

    I love your version of “Mom’s crystal ball.” How very accurate!

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