Sunday, June 29, 2008

New birth

Today at the end of church, as I was making my way out the door, one of the rehab ladies called out to me. "Ms. Tammy, Ms. Tammy, look ... here's my baby I've been pregnant with all this time...." I looked at the baby carrier on the ground next to her. Inside it, there was a tiny little boy with a small knit cap on his head. He was asleep and I did the unthinkable -- I pulled off the cap and stroked his head. I put my finger in his little hands and said, "Hello little man." He's beautiful, I told his mother, inquiring how old he was. Just 10 days old.

After admiring him a few more minutes, I stood back up, thinking about my husband who had already left to get the car. This is how church ends so many weeks -- with him going for the car and patiently waiting for me -- as I linger behind for one reason or another for just a few more minutes.

I looked at toward the parking lot, then down at the baby again, who by now was stirring and fussing from me disturbing him. I looked to the mother and sighed, "I'd sure like to hold him..." She gave her ready consent, so I took him out of his car seat and snuggled him close to my breast. I found myself swaying back and forth in that rocking motion that is so natural to anyone who has ever held her own infant in her arms. I cooed and talked sweet to him, watching him open and turn his mouth toward my body in that way newborns do. I laughed, explaining gently, "I'm not your mommy, little man." Then I asked, "Is he hungry?" She nodded yes, he probably was. "Are you breast feeding him?" No, she said, she hadn't wanted to. (My heart sank.) "Do you have a pacifier for him?" She said no, she didn't want him becoming dependent on a pacifier. "But he's so little ... he needs the comfort!" I placed him back into the car seat and buckled him in, watching him stirring and twisting in an unhappy fashion. "He needs to be swaddled," I thought to myself, knowing this was impossible while lying in a car seat.

I assured the mama her baby boy was absolutely perfect and then told her I hoped to see them both in class on Wednesday.

I thought about that baby all the way home. My mind made the connection between him and the 3 ladies who had reaffirmed their faith that morning. Like that baby, they needed milk, snuggling, comfort, swaddling. My thoughts went, as they often do, to the needs they would have now for discipling. Who will care for them, I wondered? I thought about how I prayed fervently as they were kneeling at the altar with our pastors, prayed that the Spirit would enter their hearts, begin that change, break the bondage of their addictions, and take them to a new life. A new birth.

I thought again how my heart swelled, holding that little baby that wasn't even mine. How much more does our Heavenly Father's heart swell as he holds us in his arms, at that moment of rebirth, gazing into our eyes, seeing who we will be, perhaps even seeing the heartache we will bring upon ourselves and him along the way?

Just as newborn babies have the need and desire to suckle, we have the need and desire to be in relationship with God. The baby loses the suckling reflex as he grows older; but only because he advances to drinking from a cup and eating solid food. We too are to grow in our faith, to move beyond spiritual milk, as Paul says, to more solid spiritual food.

Every day, we must choose to live either according to this new birth or in spite of it. Our actions and words and thoughts either spring forth from God's love -- the foundation of our true selves -- or from our own short-sighted desires.

God's love nourishes us. It pacifies us. It swaddles us. It brings us to new birth, so that from that new birth, we may truly live.

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