Last Wednesday, at 8:32am, Burning Bush Communities gained a new community member . . . Malachi (Mac) Allen Halley!
Little Mac arrived on the scene at 19.5 inches and about 9.25 pounds, after a relatively brief (thank you Jesus) labor process. So far he is eating and pooping like a champ, enjoys warm milk and long naps, and is a sucker for anyone who will hold him in a rocking chair. We love him a lot, and he seems to put up with us as long as we take provide the milk and deal with the bodily fluids.
As you might suspect, the birth of a child makes one think a bit (that is, when you’re not too exhausted to think) about the nature of God and life and love. So, here are a few random thoughts about the implications that babies and childbirth have for our life as disciples of Jesus . . .
1. There’s no avoiding the mess.
Childbirth is messy. Blood, fluid, goo and other items better left unmentioned all accompany the baby as he or she arrives in the world. There is nothing sanitary or safe about the process. As Mac was born I was struck by the raw reality of nature; life is messy and hard and sometimes both amazing and a little gross at the same time. And our call as disciples is to wade right into this mess. We are to accept the mess in our lives and deal with it, and also to love others in the midst of theirs. One of the striking moments in childbirth is when the nurse places the newborn, still gooey, baby into the mother’s arms. This is a picture of God’s love. It is a love that does not wait for the “proper”, neat and tidy moment to embrace the child, but delights in the being of the child even with all of the child’s goo still very much in place. And it should be pointed out that this is not just a sentimental love, but one that will nourish, defend, and correct the child in the days to come. This is the love that we are to bear in ourselves- a gift from God- and share with others in our life.
2. God’s strategies are crazy.
If we had never heard of the Christmas story- or maybe if we just thought objectively about it for a minute- and someone told us God’s plan to save the world was to send an infant into the world we would say that was absolutely crazy. Infants are as vulnerable as any creatures you can find; they can’t see well, they can’t walk, they can’t even hold their heads up! This is, I think, a comic element in the Christmas story that we miss year after year. God’s people are in need of savior, and He sends them a baby. A baby! Babies need a savior everyday just to survive! Yet that is the story. If we took this to heart, I wonder how it would make us rethink what “successful” ministry strategies look like, and rethink how we evaluate them. We like to try and use power to change the world, but God uses the powerless and vulnerable to change the world and to showcase His power.
3. Loving the vulnerable is not a program but a lifestyle.
I wish I could say that it was my joy to change Mac’s diaper and sing him songs while rocking him at 3am. It isn’t. In those moments I am reminded of my own entitlement and my unwillingness to put another’s needs before my own when it is inconvenient. In the midst of one of those moments it occurred to me that if we’re not willing to be there and serve the vulnerable when it’s inconvenient, then it’s really just about us. Our call as disciples is to take on a lifestyle of caring for and fighting for our neighbors who are vulnerable. And the beauty of this is that if we are willing to give this a try we will discover our own issues and vulnerability, and discover that perhaps we are not saviors to anyone but simply blessed to care for others as we are cared for by others.
As you can see, we can learn a lot from babies . . . but I’m too tired for more, and I suspect you might be too!