A Note from Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, January 2021

Anyone who has held a baby knows this much is true:

Cradling a new life alters every single aspect about that moment in time.

We breathe, think, move, and speak differently when a newborn is in our arms. Whether we claim them as our own or are momentarily watching over someone else’s progeny, we innately treat them as the precious, fragile gifts that they are. It is part of the reason why babies are so easy to love: they are utterly needy, and thus call upon the nurturing and protective instincts that lie deep within us.

And perhaps a human’s unrestricted, uncomplicated love for babies is also tied to the notion of temporality. We know that baby-hood does not keep. Infants seem to change and grow from one moment to the next, thus we feel further beckoned to notice and appreciate each detail of their being.

I have been thinking a lot about babies and the transformative love they inspire. Throughout the Christmas season, I kept envisioning Mary holding her newborn, full of wonder and fear, but surely also full of that whole-body attentiveness that a new life activates within its holder. And I thought — maybe for the first time, or maybe just more seriously than ever before — “Wow. That’s not only how God loves us, but how He allowed us to love Him, in the most vulnerable form possible.”

I had to ask myself, “Is that how I love God?”

And then even more convicting still, “Is that how I love other people? As if they were as precious and miraculous as the newborn babies that they once were?”

Sometimes God puts a new thought in my head that I delight in mulling over for days on end. This notion of loving others as if they were babies has been keeping me good company for weeks now.

Suspend disbelief for a moment to imagine this with me:

What if someone placed into your waiting arms an adult you know but in the form of his or her newborn self?

Can you imagine holding, for instance, your own parent when he or she was a baby?

What about your spouse?

What about yourself?

What about a friend or a neighbor or a foe— all transformed for a moment in time into an infant form of themselves for you to hold with all-consuming wonder and care…?

Somehow, imagining the adult people who populate my life in their earliest form has cracked open in my heart a new way of loving them, of seeing them, of cherishing them with the tenderness that comes from recognizing the fragile, temporal, innocent humanity that is beating within them. I love thinking about it.

I must admit here, however, that this is decidedly not how I love others. I am not nearly as gracious or imaginative in my day-to-day loving as that. But what if I took this unusual, mind-bending thought as an instruction and opportunity to grow?

With all the heartache and misunderstanding that exist among human beings, what if we all started looking at each other with compassionate imagination? Would we be able to, if only for a moment, see even our adversaries as vulnerable, loveable beings? What if we really were granted glimpses of each other as newborns— not as worldly manifestations of frustratingly opposing agendas, but instead needy souls that intrinsically crave the same love and security that we once did and that we still do?

In short, what if we sought out the God spark in each other the way we do when we marvel over babies?

As I linger over this train of thought, these words from Betty Smith’s classic novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, keep floating into my mind: “Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

God, please help me look at the people you put into my life and along my path with a fresh perspective, seeing their lives as precious as they are, as wondrous as if it were the first time I were encountering your creation, and as fleeting as if it were also the last. And help me love you, Lord, as the miraculous gift that You are. Then perhaps any pettiness or cold-heartedness would melt and fall heavily away, like ice shelves from an ancient glacier, so that our time on earth would fill with the radiating glory of Christ-like love.

Amen.

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