A week ago my beautiful little girl was born into the world and my wife Helen and I entered the ranks of fully-fledged parenthood. It has been a life-changing experience to say the least – somehow simultaneously joyous to an incredible degree and overwhelmingly challenging.
While our life routines have become exceedingly erratic (something we hope to straighten out at least somewhat in the coming weeks and months) and made things like our regular, daily Bible reading difficult to keep up with to the same degree – there have been some good opportunities for me to reflect on rich biblical and spiritual truths through a new lens over the past few days.
Here are a few of those reflections:
I’ve begun to appreciate the Fatherhood of God in a new light
The natural love I feel towards the child I now have is a great encouragement of God’s love towards me as His child. Because I’m reassured that if my love for her is this strong – His love for me and His children, around the world and throughout history, must be so much more, monumentally greater.
Jesus spoke of the Father in these kind of terms to His disciples and the Jews:
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:9-11, ESV).
Now I grasped this at one level as a son – my earthly father loves me enough to give me help and make provision for me when I need it, instead of giving me something that would harm me instead. But Jesus addresses fathers specifically in these verses and as a new father, I can better grasp the truth that God’s love towards me must be immeasurably greater than my love for my daughter as a depraved sinner.
Parenting requires greater patience than I actually possess. But not only does this push me to depend on God to change my heart and refine my character – I can also catch glimpses of how patient He is towards us. When my newborn baby doesn’t behave the way I’d like her to, she isn’t to blame and shouldn’t yet be held accountable for her actions or answerable to my expectations. On the other hand, I am so inclined towards behaviour that doesn’t please God, while being so slow in becoming like His Son and yet He bears with me – one who should know better and is fully accountable.
Wisdom and Omniscience
The gap between my knowledge and practical life experience and my daughters seems virtually infinite at this point in time. At just over a week old, she is constantly learning and yet knows practically nothing – especially how to look after herself and do even the most basic things to survive. Yet, while I am years ahead of her in learning and wisdom, there is every possibility she will have more knowledge and wisdom than me when she reaches my age. The chasm between my knowledge and wisdom and that of the Omniscient God is incalculably greater than that between father and newborn child. At nearly 30, I still know barely anything about the deep and profound truths of God, life and the universe and I scarcely know what’s really best for me, how I should live and what I should do. I need God’s infinite wisdom to survive every day, far more than my daughter depends upon mine for her survival.
Goodness + Sovereignty
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28, ESV).
I’ve often remarked that God’s sovereignty over all things is only a comforting doctrine when it is combined with the reminder of how good He is. I have felt this in a particularly strong way in the last week. My fears and anxieties about something going wrong with my baby girl – perhaps even fatally – while I fail to prevent it from occurring have at times been acute. Belief merely in God’s sovereignty in those times is of little comfort – as I can easily imagine scenarios where God permits horrendous things to happen to my family, for reasons and designs known only to Him. It’s God’s goodness and trustworthiness that I’m tempted to doubt in those dark hours – the very divine attributes Satan cast doubt on in the Garden as part of his plot to destroy the relationship between God and humanity.
So while I struggled with horrible fears in the delivery room, I found myself needing to repeatedly confess the classic refrain of the Old Testament. I give thanks to You Yahweh, for You are Good and Your steadfast love endures forever. In the time of fear and trial, I can hold onto the truth that my Heavenly Father always works good towards me because He is good and because His steadfast love extends to me constantly. He will take better care of me and my family than I ever can.
I’ve been able to ponder child-like faith in a new way
And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:3, ESV)
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Pet 2:2-3, ESV)
It’s a simple reflection really, but I’ve been struck by the fact that in many ways the first lesson a newborn learns is how to draw nourishing, life-giving milk from their mother’s breast (or from other sources provided by their parents). The child is completely dependent on the mother and what she offers, for his or her life. It’s been a wonderfully analogous reminder that the fundamental lesson of Christianity is that we need what God offers us in Christ in order to go on living (‘eternal life’) and that we need to draw upon it (by faith) in order to receive what he offers us.
“‘It is delightful to the mother,’ says Chrysostom, ‘to have her breasts drawn; so it is delightful to God to have the breasts of his mercy drawn.'” – Thomas Watson.
I’m humbled by the fact that I once was as my baby is now – and so was the Lord Jesus
When I look at my little girl, I’m amazed not only by the miracle of life I see evidenced of in her, but that not so long ago I was that small and dependent myself. But even more incredible is the humility shown by our Lord Jesus in becoming not only human, but entering the world as a tiny baby. The first song I sang to my daughter was In Christ Alone, and perhaps at no other time have I been able to ponder the line so deeply – “In Christ Alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe.”
O what a Saviour we have – that the most immense and weighty Being in existence would condescend to become a small, vulnerable, naked baby boy covered in amniotic fluid. All so that He might fully participate in the reality of humanity, in order that we may participate in the life that comes from knowing and being sustained by His divinity.