Over this past weekend, my youngest turned three years old. She’s been convincing everyone in her path that she’s B-I-G for a year now, no argument there. Her requests for her special day were a “sparkly” cake and paper dolls. Anything for you, Babe (because she is my baby). And so with butterflies hanging from the ceiling and three candles flickering on her sparkly butterfly cake, we celebrated her growth and the gift of her life.
For me, as the mother, the day held a lot of emotion and reflection. As mothers everywhere do, I reflected on the privilege of carrying and birthing her; for us, right here in our home, in water, just as the sun crested the hill through the window. “Shut the curtains please!” I pleaded moments before my body would be pushing her out, the heat of the sun and the heat of the work too much at the time. As she took her first breath, the light of her life entered our world, forever altering it. The older girls marveled at this new little sister, so brand new, and covered with all that white… what? That first day of her life was a hot late summer day, and I rested in my bed with my baby, the fan on us, the loving gaze of God on us, the miracle of birth a mystery in us yet again. How could that be three years ago?
I reflected on one year ago, how we managed to make it back to South Africa in the middle of the pandemic exploding across the wide world, the day before her second birthday. The US president addressed the nation while we were in the air over the Atlantic, with announcements of borders closing and our seat mates frantic with questions of how to return. “Let us just make it home,” we prayed, boarding our next flight to take us as far south as Africa goes. We landed, hugged our waiting teammates, and deeply worried about that the days after – had we brought COVID with us, to these people dear to us? We marveled at the timing of God, filled with joy and gratitude for being back. How could that be a year ago, bleary eyed and jet-lagged, whipping up a cake in my dear own kitchen finally, for my two-year-old baby?
The passing of time is such a mystery, and like life itself, is tinged with joy and grief, with growth and loss. I am so grateful for my healthy, growing children, and I also miss them as tiny babies, snuggled into me for hours of each day. Time is something I contemplate often; our experience of it in minutes, hours, days, and years it is a construct of our fallen world. Time in God’s kingdom looks far different, “with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). “How old will we be in heaven?” my eldest daughter asks me. How do we imagine an eternity absent of time as we know it?
As with much of the rest of life, I find I must open my hands and heart again to God, and trust him with the mysteries beyond my comprehension. May I grieve and celebrate the growing of my babies, all in the same breath? Yes, I may. Life is a miracle, a gift, a mystery, and we feel the fullness of it in our honesty with ourselves and with God. May I be filled with gratitude and marveling at life, and feel its incompleteness in the same moment? Yes, I may. Life is a joy, a light, and experiencing it in this world is not all that we are meant for. Our aching, our melancholy, is a poignant reminder that our experience of life this side of heaven is lacking, these beautiful lives we live are fallen, and are in need of deep redemption. For those of us in Christ, we have the immense privilege of knowing the earthly side of gospel redemption now, and have the glorious hope of full redemption one day.
And in the meantime, this is where you’ll find me, holding my children close and opening my hands again to our Father, day after day, year after year.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.Psalm 90:12