Thursday, September 22, 2016

Loving what God loves: “For unto us a child is born...”

I was never what you might call a “baby person.” When I was working at an orphanage, I gravitated to the older kids, whose thoughts, questions, and stories fascinated me. While acknowledging that there is no greater feeling than a baby sleeping on your chest, I was never one to spend hours holding babies in the nursery.

But then I had my own baby, and from the moment I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test, I became a baby person. Seeing her do back flips during the ultrasound, feeling her hiccups every night while I tried to sleep—it was unexpectedly glorious, better than I imagined.

The Madonna and Child with
the Infant Saint John the Baptist,
Giuseppe Cesari (1568-1640)
When she was born, I spent hours staring at her face, fingers, and toes the way parents do, thinking that if I loved this tiny, squishy, baby so much—who couldn’t smile, tell me a funny story, or laugh—how much more would my love grow along with her?

I’ve known several people who decided they would never have kids. Citing everything from cost, inconvenience, sleepless nights, travel, and loyalty to their favorite bar stool, they declared themselves “not a baby person,” or “not a kid person.” They are happy with their significant other, with their life as is. Its “enough.

In an article about the declining fertility rate in the United States, Patti Maguire Armstrong made a list of “Bad Reasons Not to Have More Children.” One of which was: “I don’t like babies.” Her response? “God does. Find out why you don’t like what God likes. That’s a disturbing state of mind.” I had never thought of it that way. Childish, selfish, sad, yes—but I didn’t afford it the gravity of disturbing.

Culturally we tend to shrug away indifference to new life: “Well, it is hard,” and “It’s not for everybody,” and “At least you know what you want.” But God commands otherwise: “Go forth and multiply.” Period. So it’s more than a preference; it’s a sad spiritual state when a couple sits down to discuss whether they want babies.

Not liking babies is incompatible with God and it’s also strangely devoid of imagination, mystery, and excitement—many of the things wilfully childless couples place such a high value on. Because nothing is more unexpected than new life, from a positive pregnancy test to the toddler eating bugs. Nothing will ever go quite according to plan again, once you open yourself up to children. And nothing is more entertaining, hilarious, and mind-boggling than a toddler. This is the adventure. This is the “good time.”

Babies are ample evidence that ours is a God of surprises. After all, the most amazing, unexpected moment in history was the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, who was the Son of God. There is an incredible power and goodness in each baby that we often underestimate. A baby does, indeed, change your life—and can change everyone else’s, too. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . .