The Other Side of Joy: A Newborn Redux

BW Baby Eyes by peasap at Flickr

“…her gentle eyes telling me: be not afraid.”

Apparently I’m not the only one who loves babies.

After my piece on the way-biggerness of newborn love ran up the charts, a friend of mine told me that I “hit it out of the park.” (For the record: neither I nor anyone at TJP condones hitting babies, out of parks or otherwise). But in all fairness, if my friend was correct, it’s because writing about love and babies is like watching a slow curveball hanging right out over the plate – it’s an easy target. So, while I’d like to claim responsibility for the popularity of that piece, I really better give credit to the cuteness of kids. Love and newborns? It was an easy sell.

But, of course, love ain’t always easy. So, in good Ignatian fashion, let’s repeat the meditation. Let’s accept that life is not always as simple as we’d like and acknowledge how these waters are deeper than we thought them to be. There is always more to say.

***

I have to admit, as relaxing as that baby video was, I was nervous the first time I saw it.  Looking back on it, I think that part of the relaxation was in getting over my nervousness and coming to realize that it was okay.  Part of the relaxation was trusting that this was a moment of beauty.

But in all honesty my first reaction was tense. When (skip to the 1:01 mark of the video) the nurse allowed that baby’s face to slowly sink beneath the water, leaving just her delicate nose above the surface, I was terrified. “She may drown!” I thought to myself, “Help her! Hold her! Get her out of there!”

I panicked. But my fears were misplaced. It was okay.  And even more than okay, watching the child was healing. This kid just spent nine months in utero – the pre-natal soaking tub of life – and warm water is probably a most comforting reminder of her mother’s womb, of a place where there should be nothing to fear.

I should have trusted her; she was in her most natural state. But instead I was like a nervous disciple in a storm tossed ship; and she was graceful, calming the storm of my fear; her gentle eyes telling me: be not afraid.

***

My friend Rachael’s insight into love, the heart of that first newborn reflection, was a good one and well received. “Love is way bigger,” she said. “It’s just way bigger than I thought.” But you should know that she said something else just after those words.  She said this: “I think about mortality a lot more often now that I have a child.”

That’s right. Babies are soft, signs of hope and new life, but for many new parents that newborn love becomes big and fierce. New mothers and fathers know more than anyone how fragile it is; how precious. The love I have for this child is way bigger than I thought and I know that this kid will suffer and die… just like the rest of us.

I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon here, I’m just saying: there is suffering too. There is a risk in love, especially in loving what is mortal, what will die.   Especially in loving a child.

Loving the vulnerable? Loving in your own vulnerability? That is a hard thing, perhaps the hardest of things. But it is also the greatest thing we’re capable of doing. To know the way-biggerness of love, a way-biggerness that includes the risk of loving that which is mortal, this is, to know God.  Loving that which will die is to know the God who is both parent and child, lover and beloved, the God of the poor and the suffering, the God of resurrection, of the eternal newness of life, of reconciliation and redemption. To live in vulnerability and trust is to know the God of love.

Now that’s way bigger than I thought.

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