When Willem, our first baby, was only a few weeks old, I remember being struck for the first time with the realization of his complete dependency on me. As I saw his tiny little body sleeping in his big crib, I thought about the possibility of him being left there alone and he couldn’t do a thing about it. My thoughts went further to imagining him waking up crying and no one coming to answer his cries. My thoughts continued even further, horrified at the idea of him being left alone, with a dirty and wet diaper, hungry, and crying for someone to come and meet his needs. The weight of my responsibility to take care of him overwhelmed me at that moment. I realized for the first time, how helpless and how reliant a baby is on the adults in his life to take care of his physical needs in order to stay alive.
Today, when I pause to think about it, I am still overwhelmed by the responsibility I have to meet the needs of my kids. Physical needs are still a part of it, but as they get older, they are capable of feeding and dressing themselves. Even little Mia is quite capable of helping herself to food left under the table or in the cupboard or in the fridge if it is left open. But right now, I feel the weight of responsibility for meeting the emotional needs of my kids. I am a mom who takes very seriously my role in making sure my kids feel safe, loved and secure. I want them to leave the house knowing that someone at home has their back no matter what. Whatever may be thrown their way in this cruel world, they have a deep knowledge they are loved and cherished for who they are.
This responsibility weighs heavy on me because it is quite impossible for me to fulfill these needs all the time. Having 5 kids means they need to take turns having special time with me. Because Cor and Mia are still so young, they often get priority on mom’s lap because they need comfort more often: when bang their heads on something or when someone steals their toy or when a rushing older sibling side swipes them on the way past, causing them to fall to the ground. At these moments of distress, they come crying to me for comfort. But once one child sees another on my lap, they all want a turn. You can imagine what this looks like: 2-5 children draped on my lap while the youngest one’s clamor to get as close to me as possible. It is like a competition and the winner is the one who gets to stay sitting with me. This leaves the others wanting. Wanting special time with me where they can recharge and have their emotional tanks filled once again. Knowing this, leaves me feeling guilty for not being able to fill all the tanks as often as they’d like me to.
Yesterday in church, we had the privilege of witnessing the baptism of a tiny baby girl. The promises declared on this little child moved me to tears. I don’t remember the minister’s exact words, but I do remember the phrases, “set apart as God’s covenant child” and “marked as God’s own.”
Because my children were sitting in church with us, I didn’t catch most of the sermon, but I do remember hearing about Jesus being born as a dependent child, relying on his father and his mother to provide for him. The Son of God was born in a human body, just as vulnerable and helpless as the rest of us are born into this world.
This got me thinking about the kind of people God chose to being Jesus’ parents.
I wonder what made Mary God’s choice to be Jesus’ mother? Was it because she would be a stern parent who knew how to keep Jesus in line? I mean he was free from sin, but being a little human boy, I’m sure he needed reminders as to how he was to behave every once in a while. Or was it because she was a warm and gentle and a loving woman, always looking to the needs of others instead of herself? I can imagine being a good mother to Jesus weighed heavily on Mary. I mean, she was the mother of the Son of God, she must have have thought she’d better get it right or God would be disappointed in her!
And what was it about Joseph that he was chosen to be Jesus’ father? Was it because he offered the strength and security that was needed in order to keep Jesus alive and out of harm’s way? We often talk about Mary, but Joseph’s role as father was just as important as he provided for Jesus and was responsible for his safety. Because of the many threats, this must have weighed heavily on Joseph as provider.
But in reading the story of Jesus’ life in the Gospels, the story is a lot more about God and what he’s doing than what Mary and Joseph did. The stories tell of God keeping his promises and even though human errors were made, God’s plan came true. Jesus lived to adulthood and became the sacrificial lamb, dying on a cross, so we would have salvation. This didn’t happen because Mary and Joseph were exceptionally good parents. It happened because God made it happen. It was his plan and his promise to his people, us.
When I contemplate these things, I feel some relief to the pressure I feel to meet all the needs of my kids all the time. Of course, like Mary and Joseph, I have been given children to take care of. I can’t neglect that responsibility. But there is much more going on than just what I and my husband are doing as parents. God has his hand on our covenant children, he has marked them as his own, and he has a plan for them. His Holy Spirit is at work in their lives as they learn more about God, his Son, Jesus, and the amazing story of their redemption.
I am always amazed at how our kids simply believe. We tell them about God and Jesus and they believe it. Even though at times it seems impossible to believe such a story, they accept it with a child-like faith. I know this as Janelle sings praise songs she makes up such as, “God, I love you. You love me. You are wonderful. You made everything. I love you.” What beautiful words from a small, 4-year-old girl who doesn’t know much about the world yet, but she knows about God’s love for her.
I also see it in the comfort Willem receives when we pray together before he goes to sleep. Often he lays awake in his bed and comes asking for me to pray with him. After we pray together, he never comes out again. Talking to God and being assured of his presence, allows him to rest and relax and doze off to sleep.
I am thankful for the sacrament of baptism. Although the sacrament is carried out with ordinary things and by ordinary people, when it is sprinkled on a child’s head, with words of God’s promise and blessing spoken, it becomes an experience that reaches deep within the soul, assuring us all of God’s amazing grace and love.
“To be washed by Christ’s Spirit means
that the Holy Spirit has renewed me
and set me apart to be a member of Christ
so that more and more I become dead to sin
and increasingly live a holy and blameless life.”