My husband and I are due to have our first child in a matter of weeks. As I prepare to become a mother, I find myself anticipating a new kind of love, something I have never felt before. And, as I imagine how it will feel to look at this new being for the first time, I find myself thinking about what God must feel as He nurtures each of us and helps us grow toward our real selves.
It may have been my own father who first got me thinking about this. At our wedding, a year ago, my father made a toast. In describing his first experience of fatherhood, when my older sister was born, he said: “I can still remember the altogether new and almost indescribable sensation of holding a tiny baby in my arms and feeling how helpless this being was and how it was a part of my new responsibility as a father to care for, love and protect this person, and to do that for many years to come. And I remember as I was feeling the love of a father for his child, I began imagining how God, the true Father of all, with His infinite capacity for Love, must feel towards His children, towards all His children, each and every one of us.”
I remember when my father said this, thinking about the unconditional love of the parent for the child and imagining my husband and I, someday, staring down at a little one with that same mix of awe, protectiveness and love. And then I imagined Him, and myself in His hands like that, being held by a Love that is unshakable and complete. Ultimately nurturing, ultimately powerful. Indeed, He said, “If you truly take Me as a Father then take Me as your parents — both Father and Mother.”
So when I think of the job—and the gift—ahead of me, of being a mother, and all the challenges and joys it will likely contain, I turn toward Him, the ultimate Expert, for guidance. I am sure that I will love this child, but will that be enough to overcome my nagging tendencies toward selfishness and my persistent need for sleep? I think of the great stories of sacrifice that true love entails and how He gives to each of us—as lover, as beloved—in ways we cannot even begin to measure or reciprocate. And I get a little worried about how well I will do as a mother. And then I turn to His words on love, those sweet reminders of its ability to bypass the intellect and to surprise even our own sense of who we are. He said, “There is nothing that love cannot achieve and there is nothing that love cannot sacrifice. Pure love is matchless in majesty, it has no parallel in power and there is no darkness it cannot dispel. It is the undying flame that has set all life aglow.”
When I think of this life growing inside me, of the glow of love that flushes over me when I feel his little body move just beyond the barrier of my skin, I know I am in store for learning entirely new realities about love. And I only hope, in the process, my awareness and appreciation of how He loves each of us comes into relief with new brightness and gratitude.