Currently I’m sitting on my sister’s couch with her tiny 6 pound, two-week-old baby nestled right beside me. Life is good. So very good.
This is my sister’s first child. A long-sought after baby who, though born five weeks early, is back up to her birth weight and healthy as can be. I flew into town yesterday to meet this sweet child, and to offer my sister and brother-in-law around the clock support. Right now that means sitting here alternating between typing, patting a tiny belly and holding slender fingers with paper thin nails. Our relationship is just beginning. And I’m just so excited.
I know what to do while I’m here because my sister taught me how to be an aunt. For ten years she was an aunt to my children before becoming a mother herself. My first year as a mom, she called every single morning on her way to work to see how long my son slept and how much crying was involved. She called on Thursdays after my breastfeeding support group to see how much weight he had gained. She’s surprised us with visits on multiples occasions and surprised us with packages of adorable baby clothes more times that I could ever count. Ten years of thoughtful gestures like these means that she’s now the person my daughter wants to call after a well-played basketball game or my son wants to FaceTime to show off an extraordinarily built Lego spaceship.
And now, I get to do the same.
The past few Sundays the Revised Common Lectionary featured call stories of great Hebrew prophets. Two weeks ago we heard God tell Jeremiah that he was known by God even before being knit within his mother’s womb. Last week we heard Isaiah question God, but after having his unclean lips cleaned with a burning coal, he, too, accepts God’s daunting call.
This baby, like all children, was knit together by God and is known by God. To be known and called by God means being equipped “to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine” as we hear in the book of Ephesians. It means being empowered to proclaim God’s word and embody God’s will even when we feel inadequate.
As I’m rubbing this tiny belly still adorned with the remnant of her umbilical cord, I’m also thinking about God’s plan for her. Where will she go? What will God ask her to do? As her aunt, how can I help her better answer God’s call with courage and humility?
I plan to shower this baby with love, prayers, and oh so many books, but I also want to share an example of authentic Christian discipleship. An additional gift newborns offer adults is a heaping dose of perspective. While I’m wondering about God’s purpose for her, this baby has me questioning God’s calls within my own life. Which calls have I resisted? How can I better answer God with courage and humility? When did I stop imagining what God would accomplish through me?
I am so grateful that I can offer attention and devotion to this baby girl if only for a few days. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend time with a creature so pure and holy because it reminds me of the goodness that exists in this broken world. I’m grateful for the opportunity to dream about her future and mine as well.
I pray these few days of loving, burping, wiping, and snuggling will pave the way for a lasting relationship that will include phone calls announcing milestones and also ones reporting mundane nighttime adventures.