"Baby love, my baby love, I need you, ooh how I need you…"
I never knew I could love someone so much. Before I gave birth to Abigail, I thought, "Of course I'll love her. She's my daughter, my flesh and blood, and I will love her." It was a kind of theoretical love, one that made sense in my head and made me weep when I first felt her move. When she finally arrived, that theoretical love became real, and fiercer than fire. Abby is so beautiful—her tiny, perfect toes; the way she stares into my eyes without blinking; the way she arches her back when she yawns hugely—my heart swells just to think of it. All the potential in her is enthralling. She will be the only one in the world with her heart and mind and soul and she will love God and the world in an unique way. I can't wait to see who she'll become. And when I hold her close and feel her little furnace of a body, I am overwhelmed by sadness to think of all the babies in the world who are malnourished, neglected, or unloved. In the first couple of weeks, I cried every time I thought of it. How could a parent stand it? Abby is so vulnerable—she can't do anything for herself and relies completely on Leighton and me for everything. I could never betray her trust.
I never knew I could be tired like this. There's the lack of sleep, of course, and I don't think I'll ever look at 2am in the same way again, but more than that is the emotional tiredness. Loving someone this much exhausting. The energy I expend worrying about how much she's eating or excreting, whether that cry is one of pain or boredom, if I'm entertaining or educating her enough for this stage of development—that energy is joyful and almost unsustainable. It is love tinged with worry for all the things that might go wrong. I'm my father's daughter: we excel at finding something to worry about.
I never knew how loved I was. It struck me the other night that we talk about God as a parent—Father or Mother—and that image has never truly resonated with me. It isn't that I don't love my parents—they're two of the most amazing people I know—but that I never really understood the love they have for me. I took it for granted, perhaps; their care and worry was not as immediate as my own desires. Now, I get it. Now, I wonder if the church fathers and mothers over the centuries have talked about God as parent, not because of what it's like to be a child, but because of what it's like to be a parent. I suspect God looks at us with the same overwhelming love and exhaustion. God sees all that is precious in us, the children. God sees all that is in us, all the potential, all the mistakes and successes. God's heart swells to see our dear faces looking back. God is pleased by our attempts to make things—buildings, laws, art, systems, relationships, laundry—just as we are when our child first clings to our finger or brings her first macaroni painting. God's heart breaks to see any of us in pain.
Perhaps you've never thought of yourself in this light, as the infinitely beloved and vulnerable baby of God. Perhaps you've already thought of God this way and you're miles ahead of me. Either way, "Our Father…" has never meant so much.