Recently, I hinted that I should write a blog post on some of the amazing things that God teaches us through young children.
Four and a half years ago, my firstborn child was about eight weeks old when I wrote the following words to a friend in an email. The friend was struggling with difficulties such as anorexia and depression, and struggling to see the value in her life. Amidst other things, I reflected on what having a baby had taught me:
‘Here I have this tiny, completely helpless bundle of life. For the first six weeks, I do not think she could see my face. There was nothing she did that in any way acknowledged that I was there (except her physical need for my breasts!). I could barely walk for a few weeks, was tired from having lost lots of blood, now was getting about four hours of interrupted sleep a night and trying so hard to make sense of what I should be doing, and she would reward me by screaming at me, peeing on me, vomiting on me etc. And yet, there is this most OVERWHLEMING love for her. I adore her. From the moment I saw her enter the world, my husband says I have never smiled as much. I can easily sit for hours and hours just holding her, singing to her, praying for her. She has done nothing whatsoever to earn my love. And yet, I cannot imagine it possible to love a person more. This goes against so many things we have been taught. We are taught that our value is in what we have achieved. What we look like. Even as a Christian, perhaps in terms of our faith or maturity or service of others. We judge ourselves in this way also. But what does the Bible say? It tells us that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64 verse 6). It reminds us that whilst we are yet sinners then Christ died for us (Romans 5 verse 8). We are told that we should become as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. NOTHING we do can make God love us more, make us more acceptable, make us more part of His kingdom. I think maybe sometimes we know the verses, especially when we have been Christians a while, but don't really appreciate the depth of what that means. Similarly, when we think about the people we value most in our lives - it is not because of what they have done or what they look like, but who they ARE. Why do we judge ourselves so harshly, why do we strive for more, for better, when in fact we are as God made us with all our weaknesses, frailties, idiosyncracies? 'For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them'. Eph 2:10. How can God have prepared these things for us before we were even born? Before we had achieved anything? Because of who He has made us to be....
Another thing I have learnt with my daughter is the importance of taking each day as it comes. Yes, we are all familiar with Matthew 6: 'Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble', but how often do we truly live that way. How often when we pray 'Give us today our daily bread' do we really trust that God will supply ALL our needs for that day. And then if tomorrow brings a cold wind of change, then God will CONTINUE to provide. She changes a lot every day. Now at two months, she can smile, follow my face, interact, make little cooing noises, begin to try to sit up. She is no longer that totally fragile bundle of fluff she once was. Many friends have told me to enjoy every moment because these days pass so quickly, and I praise God that through our circumstances and blessings I am able to take this time just to be with her and enjoy these days. If tragedy were to strike and she were to die tomorrow, I would still be able to say that these have been two of the most precious months I have ever known, and that my life is so much richer having known her. I would not look back and wish I had enjoyed her more, or that I wish I hadn't been rushing around trying to fit so much in around her. Like people often say, nobody gets to the end of life and wishes they had spent more time in the office, but many people regret never having told their loved ones how precious they were, or having spent time with the people who meant most. There are days when I get loads of housework and cooking do, do a couple of hours of work on my project, send half a dozen emails, choose the hymns for Sunday's service, meet a friend for coffee, have guests for dinner and then go out to Bible study, and these are great. There are other days when my husband gets home and the breakfast things are still on the table and I have barely moved from the sofa where I have been with my daughter all day. Which day is of more value? On which day have I been a 'better' person? You see what I mean?
These words are especially poignant as I commented ‘even if tragedy were to strike and she were to die tomorrow’... Was that a strange thing to have said? Because within the week, she had suffered an unexplained cardiac arrest, never fully regained consciousness and died six weeks later. And how I thank God for her life! The words I spoke then are true, and I am grateful to God that I was able to have that perspective, even despite a difficult pregnancy and delivery. I am grateful that I was able to take a step back from the hectic pace of life and the relentless expectations that seem to be placed on us, and truly marvel at the gift of life that my daughter was.
I could go on to talk more about what God teaches us through older children, as they make attempts to succeed and fail, as they start to walk and run, but fall, as they begin to test out boundaries and limits, showing their true sinful natures, and yet their childlike faith and trust. But I think that belongs in a separate post, and for now I’ll leave you with the lessons that God taught through a baby girl who lived for fifteen weeks.