I had a baby. Let me tell you about her. Gracie’s olive skin feels like velvet. Her eyelashes are fantastic. When she stretches her limbs she does it with every ounce of her being, becoming like a little starfish. In fact, everything she does is unequivocally wholehearted, which I’m in awe of. How do babies know how to focus with such intensity, approach things with a somber seriousness, and yet switch effortlessly to fun and silliness, never taking themselves too seriously? I feel like I’m learning as much from her as she is from me.
I’m surprised by the urge I feel to help Gracie whenever anything is a struggle, to take away any pain. Even something as simple as her reaching for a toy, trying to roll over, feeling hungry and wanting milk. I feel such a strong desire, almost a physical pulling towards her like a magnet, to resolve it for her. But I know I can’t always take away negative experiences, emotions or pain. And it wouldn’t even be good for her if I could. Butterflies need to squeeze through the cocoon to dry out their wings and be able to fly; babies need to stretch and reach and flounder a bit to strengthen their muscles and develop control to crawl and eventually walk and do everything adults do. But it’s hard to see her struggle at all.
And she surely makes her displeasure known. She cries just as wholeheartedly as everything else. I never knew how many different cries a baby has: a slow, pitiful cry with lip pout, a screech, a cry that sounds like a laugh (and vice versa), a hungry cry, a grunting cry, a general, indiscriminate wahh after I’ve taken too long to respond to any of the other more specific sounds. Some of them are easier to handle than others, but they all pull at my heart.
As our Father, God probably feels a similar yearning to shelter us from pain and discomfort, to rescue us from trials. Just as Gracie can’t see why I don’t always immediately come to her aid, we wonder why He doesn’t instantly heal us, or take away our troubles. He sees the big picture in ways we cannot, just as I can see from an adult’s perspective that it’s best to let her be challenged sometimes. All the while I’m watching over her of course, supporting her and wishing I could take on her struggle as my own. We know God watches over us as well. He’s there for us even when we can’t see Him working or fixing things in the way or the timing we’d like. Psalm 121:8 says, “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever” (New Living Translation). And God goes further for us than I ever could for Gracie. He lets us be challenged for our own ultimate good, but Christ took on the penalty for our sin as His own, through His sacrifice (Romans 5:8).
It’s amazing how much time things take for babies (to our sense as adults), things that seem like they should take no time at all. She reaches only a little farther each day, she shifts her weight, she becomes a bit steadier on her legs. Tiny movements are a big deal for her. And yet little by little, oh so steadily, she changes. I can see it so clearly in her, but still I get impatient in the moment, when it seems like she could “get” whatever she is doing with just a little more effort.
How patient God is with us (infinitely more than I am), when He sees us struggle at things that are nothing for Him. God is allowing us to be stretched in the ways we need so that we can mature, grow skills and function as spiritual adults, rather than continue as infants. How amazing it is how He watches over us, supporting us and rooting for us, with the perfect wisdom of knowing how to work all things together so that we have the best chance at growing into maturity and becoming members of His family.
It could be helpful to see our own trials a little more in the perspective that we are infants compared to God. While He sees and feels for us in our pain, He also sees how small, in the grand scheme of things, our trials are. The eternal life that He wants to give us will eclipse our current trials in every way, just like Gracie, who cries out so desperately now for help in her baby struggles. But when she grows up, she won’t even remember these difficulties, and will look back at pictures with a knowing smile.