New Baby, New Love

As I sit here staring at the computer, words bouncing all around this full, but tired mind, a sweet baby boy is curled up beside me. He is in a word, precious. My Jonah.

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This name, Jonah, in Hebrew means dove, which represents the presence of the Holy Spirit and peace. I chose this name because in my life now more than ever I am desperate for these two realities, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and peace- wonderful, inexplicable, transcending, Jesus-only peace. And so here he is, Jonah. And I do feel a new gust of peace, a new awareness of God’s presence and the waking and rising of His Spirit within me. It’s a new season for this rattled and wanting soul.

As I sit here gazing at fragile, helpless infant life, I am wonderfully tranquil in an old truth that has come to settle in a new place in my heart and mind. It took weeks of struggling in my human experience to receive it, weeks of wrestling in the final days of my pregnancy, but now I am resting in the most excellent of truths- I am loved- deeply, tenderly, completely, without merit, without cause…simply because I belong to Him.

Here is how this came to rest within me:

In the weeks leading up to Jonah’s birth, I was shaken, deep down to the core, shaken. I tried to understand it, to know it and name it, to apply truth to it and to conquer it- but I failed.

 These thoughts chided me…

 But it’s been ten years. I have a blog, a book even. I have SO MUCH TRUTH, so many weapons I have collected against grief and fear. Shouldn’t I be able to kick this? Shouldn’t I be able to lasso God’s power and peace in such a way that my emotions must heel at my command?

I expected my tenure with grief, my professional, spiritual and intentional relationship with sorrow to give me a leg up, an advantage over this painful reality of trauma and it’s gripping effects.

Not so. Not so.

In the days before Jonah’s birth, the seven days in between the gestational age we lost Anna and the day Jonah was in fact born, a torrent of feelings, grief and fear impaled me. I was stabbed with continual chest pain and had difficulty breathing, sleeping and eating. I was living on the edge of a panic attack for a week. I claimed, I clung and I fought, trying my hardest to be the best good little Christian soldier I knew how to be. But I could not seem to harness God’s truth in such a way that I was victorious over my feelings. I was humiliated and the Pharisee within me, the rule following, ladder climbing, legalistic girl that I am, graded, scorned and shackled me with guilt and shame.

And then Jonah was born. He cried. I let out a deep cry myself, a sob of relief and gratitude. Calm settled in. Was the fear now gone? Was the battle finally over?

The next day I sat nursing new life and an urgent “code blue” bellowed over the intercom and into the deepest valley of my heart. I knew somewhere not too far from me, someone was struggling to breathe…someone was dying. The next day, two different nurses came to my room to report their sad stories of still-birth in the past year. My eyes filled with tears, my heart with agony, my words with empathy.

Life and death are everywhere.

The panic returned.

The battle was far from over.

The first night home from the hospital I barely slept. How could I sleep with a brand new baby to protect? What if he was struggling to breathe?  What if he spit up and choked? What if…

The next morning, exhausted, I wept deep heavy sobs, realizing the fear I thought would end the moment the baby was in my arms was only picking up speed. I collapsed to my knees and cried out desperately, “He’s yours. I give him to you, He’s yours. I cannot maintain his breathing or his beating heart. You have either planned for him to live or die and nothing I can do will change that…and so I give up. I cannot live like this anymore.” And as I knelt there weeping and helpless, a gift, an image came to mind. I saw my mothering wings spread out over my children, and above me I saw, the vast wings of God spread out over us all.

And then it hit me like a wave.

He loves me.

I stopped crying, the winds and waves of my soul growing calm under the command of love.

He loves me….why so powerful, this thought, this truth I have known and spoken a thousand times before?

The image showed me the truth in an intimate way. The picture allowed me to encounter and not just to rehearse my God. I am covered by the outstretched arms of a tender, compassionate Father. Yes, I am an adult, a parent, charged with the responsibility of caring and protecting my babies. But the most central truth to my human existence, the identity more essential, transforming and freeing than all other identities is, I am His child.

I had forgotten.

I struggled through the end of my pregnancy trying to be a hero, a winner instead of a girl shaking in the arms of her tender God. That would have been real winning. I had forgotten that I was accepted, that I belonged and that my oozing scars evoke the tender mercy of my God…not His wrath. I had forgotten that I was a child within the watchful embrace of her compassionate daddy and in doing so, I orphaned myself from love. I assumed my time was up- the alarm had sounded. I assumed the grace period, the tender hour had passed and an expectation of robotic flawlessness had taken its place.

Not so. Not so.

He loves me.

He loves taking care of me. He loves being my dad.

I had missed it- the peace and joy that comes from being nestled in the arms of divine love.

As I cradled baby Jonah in my arms that night, staring at his helplessness, loving him only because he is mine, I found myself aching to receive God’s love in all the starving places in my heart, those uncharted territories aching to be stormed by the presence of the Good Shepherd. What would happen, who would I become, if being the beloved of God was in fact the greatest truth about me, if my identity were rooted in being a child with her daddy? How would I relate to myself, to my family, to a world in need? Suddenly every other goal, every other ambition, every other definition became meaningless and the barricade holding back rivers of grace broke and washed over me.

Oh He loves me.

 He loves me.

 Weak and fragile, fearful and frantic.

 He loves me.

 He loves me.

 My babies and I, we are all but children under the canopy of a good and gracious God. A new chapter of trust has begun. A new chapter of being versus trying.

Oh let me never forget…

He loves me.

“How exquisite your love, Oh God. How eager we are to run under your wings.” Psalm 36:7

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